Letter | Published:

Evidence for a limit to human lifespan

Nature volume 538, pages 257259 (13 October 2016) | Download Citation


Driven by technological progress, human life expectancy has increased greatly since the nineteenth century. Demographic evidence has revealed an ongoing reduction in old-age mortality and a rise of the maximum age at death, which may gradually extend human longevity1,2. Together with observations that lifespan in various animal species is flexible and can be increased by genetic or pharmaceutical intervention, these results have led to suggestions that longevity may not be subject to strict, species-specific genetic constraints. Here, by analysing global demographic data, we show that improvements in survival with age tend to decline after age 100, and that the age at death of the world’s oldest person has not increased since the 1990s. Our results strongly suggest that the maximum lifespan of humans is fixed and subject to natural constraints.

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We thank T. Wang for his suggestions on the statistical analysis. This study was supported by grants from the NIH to J.V. (AG017242 and AG047200), the Albert Einstein College of Medicine Institute for Aging Research/Nathan Shock Center, and the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Human Aging at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

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Author notes

    • Xiao Dong
    •  & Brandon Milholland

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Department of Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, USA

    • Xiao Dong
    • , Brandon Milholland
    •  & Jan Vijg
  2. Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, USA

    • Jan Vijg


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X.D. and B.M. performed data analysis. X.D., B.M. and J.V. wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jan Vijg.

Reviewer Information

Nature thanks J.-M. Robine and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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