The long goodbye
New research shows that if you make it to 105, your expected lifespan plateaus
As we all know, the older we get, the more likely we are to die. For example, a girl under the age of 15 has a one in 10,000 chance of dying in a year. This rises to one in 1,000 between the ages of 35 and 45 and to one in 20 by the age of 70.
However, once you hit your eighties, the risk of dying actually starts to slow down and, according to some researchers, by the time you reach 105 years of age, this risk of dying levels out entirely.
Of course, this theory of the “mortality plateau” is fairly contentious, mainly because of the relatively small amount of data available for this age group.
Authors of the latest study, however, found 4,000 patients older than 105 who were all born within a few years of each other, and had spent most of their time in the same country – making this particular group more reliable than most. The researchers discovered that after the age of 105, patients had a 50% chance of dying within a year, with an expected lifespan of 1 ½ years. This fascinatingly remained the case through to the 110-year-old group. In essence, therefore, the 105-year-olds had indeed hit a mortality plateau.
A possible explanation for this is that those patients who have managed to avoid injury and disease in their eighties and nineties are genetically optimised being able to live to an extreme age.
For example, whilst cancer is quite a common cause of death for people in their seventies to nineties it is interesting that very few people die from cancer over the age of 100. This research was led by Professor Vaupel of the Max Planck Institute in Germany.