Increase of Maximum Life-Span in Sweden, 1861-1999

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Science  29 Sep 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5488, pp. 2366-2368
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5488.2366

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A fundamental question in aging research is whether humans and other species possess an immutable life-span limit. We examined the maximum age at death in Sweden, which rose from about 101 years during the 1860s to about 108 years during the 1990s. The pace of increase was 0.44 years per decade before 1969 but accelerated to 1.11 years per decade after that date. More than 70 percent of the rise in the maximum age at death from 1861 to 1999 is attributable to reductions in death rates above age 70. The rest are due to increased numbers of survivors to old age (both larger birth cohorts and increased survivorship from infancy to age 70). The more rapid rise in the maximum age since 1969 is due to the faster pace of old-age mortality decline during recent decades.

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