Side Note

New study suggests it’s possible to never die

(As long as you live until you’re 105 and have really good luck after that.)

A group of European researchers have recently published a study in Science that uses data from extremely old Italian people to suggest that our risk of dying stagnates around the age of 105. As we age, the odds that we’ll die increases year after year — we’re more likely to die at 80 than we were at 70, for example — but that these odds, write the researchers, reach a “mortality plateau” around 105 where we have a 50 percent chance of life from one year to the next. This new paper contradicts previous research that suggests our lifespan is capped at about 125.

While the oldest living person in the modern era is Jeanne Clement, who died in 1997 at the age of 122, during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s a Chinese man named Li Chen-Yeung found brief notoriety due to reports that he’d lived to the age of 197 (or 256, but at that point who’s counting). And throughout history, there have always been reports of people living well beyond the supposedly natural human lifespan — check the very entertaining Wikipedia page on “Longevity Myths” if you don’t believe me — but we usually dismiss such stories as nothing more than the stuff of legend. If this new study is correct, though, maybe it’s totally possible to live well into our hundreds, and we’re just too gorged on mass-produced, nutrition-bereft junk food to ever get a chance to test out our luck.