Policy ForumDemography

Broken Limits to Life Expectancy

Science  10 May 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5570, pp. 1029-1031
DOI: 10.1126/science.1069675

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Is human life expectancy approaching its limit? Many--including individuals planning their retirement and officials responsible for health and social policy--believe it is, but the evidence presented in the Policy Forum suggests otherwise. For 160 years, best-performance life expectancy has steadily increased by a quarter of a year per year, an extraordinary constancy of human achievement. Mortality experts have repeatedly asserted that life expectancy is close to an ultimate ceiling; these experts have repeatedly been proven wrong. The apparent leveling off of life expectancy in various countries is an artifact of laggards catching up and leaders falling behind.

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