February 07, 2012
Fewer Centenarians Than Previously Thought

The growth in mortality rate does not flatten out at any point. The rate of death for a given cohort rises every year.

Research just published by a team of demographers at the social science research organization NORC at the University of Chicago contradicts a long-held belief that the mortality rate of Americans flattens out above age 80.

It also explains why there are only half as many people in the U.S. age 100 and above than the Census Bureau predicted there would be as recently as six years ago.

The research is based on a new way of accurately measuring mortality of Americans who are 80 years of age and older, an issue that has proven remarkably elusive in the past. The work will be significant in arriving at more accurate cost projections for programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which are based in part on mortality rates.

The research, done by Leonid A. Gavrilov and Natalia S. Gavrilova, and published in the current edition of the North American Actuarial Journal, is based on highly accurate information about the date of birth and the date of death of more than nine million Americans born between 1875 and 1895. The data is publicly available in the Social Security Administration Death Master File. "It is a remarkable resource that allowed us to build what is called an extinct birth cohort that corrects or explains a number of misunderstandings about the mortality rate of our oldest citizens," said Leonid Gavrilov.

This makes intuitive sense to me. The more things go wrong in the body the more those things cause still other things to go wrong. Plus, each component is wearing out even without the influence of failing supporting components. So why expect a flattening of the mortality curve? We won't be able to flatten or, better yet, reverse the rising mortality rate with age until we can rejuvenate. Gotta repair or replace aging parts.

Every 8 years your risk of dying doubles. That's a gruesome thought. We should fix this.

The mortality rate for people between the ages of 30 and 80 follows what is called the Gompertz Law, named for its founder, Benjamin Gompertz, who observed in 1825 that a person's risk of death in a given year doubles every eight years of age. It is a phenomenon that holds up across nations and over time and is an important part of the foundation of actuarial science.

For approximately 70 years, demographers have believed that above age 80 the Gompertz Law did not hold and that mortality rates flattened out. The work done by the Gavrilovs, a husband-and-wife team, reveals that the Gompertz Law holds at least through age 106, and probably higher, but the researchers say mortality data for those older than 106 is unreliable.

This report is yet another reminder: We need to develop rejuvenation therapies. Grow new organs. Grow stem cells of various types and inject them where needed. Develop drugs and other means to kill off senescent cells to make room for healthier cells. Develop gene therapies to repair key cells that we need to keep (e.g. brain cells that hold our memories and personalities).

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 February 07 08:06 PM  Aging Studies


Comments
PacRim Jim said at February 7, 2012 9:49 PM:

Want to live longer?
Your life will be longer if you write your age in octal.
It will be maximum in binary, unless you want to want to leave the positive integers.

Fat Man said at February 7, 2012 9:58 PM:

"Sunday, November 6, 2011; 1:15 PM PST; Stephen Coles gave a brief update on Supercentenarian instantaneous mortality rates at the "M" Hotel in Las Vegas, NV to the Fall AMMG Conference. These rates do not appear to plateau at any particular age as they do in insects. but continue to rise systematically with age."
http://www.grg.org/
Mortality Rate as a Function of Age
http://www.grg.org/DGenneryMortality5.pdf

see also: http://www.supercentenarian.com/

There are very few people who live past 115. Only a handful have gotten past 116, and only one person has gotten past 120, Jeanne Calment of France who lived for 122 years 164 days.

Ben said at February 8, 2012 12:36 AM:

Sometimes when I think about this issue, I marvel at our progress and am filled with optimism for the future. At other times I am absolutely inconsolate, panicked and grief stricken that this absurd state of affairs has been allowed to continue for as long as it has. Thanks to that 'every eight years' statistic, today I am leaning toward the latter state of mind.

That we should be doing absolutely as much as we can and directing the majority of our scientific resources toward solving the problem of aging is so blindingly obvious to me that I consider it a damning indictment on all of humanity that I seem to be in the minority in holding this calmly rational and sensible viewpoint. What the FUCK kind of a world do we live in when believing in the desirability of fixing aging is a minority view?

For the love of God, what is wrong with us??? This is a nightmare.

Gabriel said at February 8, 2012 12:57 PM:

Well Ben, it is because of the love of God that you will be freed from your earthly body and pass into eternal bliss where aging and pain are of no concern. This is the gift that Jesus purchased for you with his blood. Wake up from your nightmare and embrace the truth that is Jesus Christ!

Darian Smith said at February 8, 2012 4:29 PM:

This makes chocolate all the more interesting given this new info, the two oldest supercentenarians having been chocoholics may not be coincidence given the extraordinariness of such status. But while mortality does not necessarily plateau I've trouble believing gompertz law does not break down at more advanced ages, and mortality increases start to slow down.

QUOTE
"Estimates indicate at age 100 odds of dying per year are 50%
This startling fact was first noticed by the British actuary Benjamin Gompertz in 1825 and is now called the “Gompertz Law of human mortality.” Your probability of dying during a given year doubles every 8 years. For me, a 25-year-old American, the probability of dying during the next year is a fairly miniscule 0.03% – about 1 in 3,000. When I’m 33 it will be about 1 in 1,500, when I’m 42 it will be about 1 in 750, and so on. By the time I reach age 100 (and I do plan on it) the probability of living to 101 will only be about 50%. This is seriously fast growth – my mortality rate is increasing exponentially with age.

And if my mortality rate (the probability of dying during the next year, or during the next second, however you want to phrase it) is rising exponentially, that means that the probability of me surviving to a particular age is falling super-exponentially.-link "
END QUOTE


I seriously doubt anyone went through two more doublings of mortality, it is preposterous. A very good test is what the linked article comments, it should be virtually impossible for anyone to live past 130, yet I'm all but certain that will be broken before 2050, even without any drastic scientific advance.

solaris said at February 8, 2012 5:11 PM:

>"That we should be doing absolutely as much as we can and directing the majority of our scientific resources toward solving the problem of aging is so blindingly obvious to me that I consider it a damning indictment on all of humanity that I seem to be in the minority in holding this calmly rational and sensible viewpoint. What the FUCK kind of a world do we live in when believing in the desirability of fixing aging is a minority view?"


A sane and sensible world? Aging is not a "problem", it's a necessity. Things dying is a necessity. Try to imagine a world in which nobody ever died of old age - we'd have to kill them off to make soylent green to feed all the others. Besides, a lot of people are not the sort I'd WANT to see live forever.

Ben said at February 8, 2012 7:01 PM:

"Aging is not a "problem", it's a necessity."

Is cancer a necessity? What about Alzheimers? Arthritis? Type II diabetes? Stroke? Heart disease? Age related blindness? You cannot be against these things and be for the aging process. They are medically one and the same thing. Aging causes MASSIVE amounts of suffering. It cripples people to death. It is a medical disaster that people like you approve of simply because you've grown up in a culture that rationalises in it's favor, when to do so is COMPLETELY INSANE. Attacks on the scientific goal of defeating aging are irrational and immoral.

"Try to imagine a world in which nobody ever died of old age"

I have. It would be wonderful. Soon we'll no longer have to imagine it. We'll be living in it. You'll look silly.

"we'd have to kill them off to make soylent green to feed all the others."

I take back everything I have said. Clearly you've thought about this a lot and have a nuanced, sophisticated perspective on the matter.

"Besides, a lot of people are not the sort I'd WANT to see live forever."

Like I said, irrational and immoral.

Ben said at February 8, 2012 7:30 PM:

Hi Gabriel,

While I probably don't share your particular beliefs, thanks for sharing them with me just the same. I largely agree with the moral teachings of Jesus and the gospels and think the Christian religion plays an important role in expressing important spiritual and material goals essential to a lot of people's lives.

That being said, aging is a medical problem, and it requires a medical solution. In other words, "embracing the truth of Jesus Christ" will not end this nightmare. Only the onward advance of medical science can do that. To the extent that religion is proposed as an alternative to this solution, it runs the risk of becoming an obstacle to it as well. This would not only be unnecessary, but it would be enormously destructive and contrary to the aims of the Christian religion. After all, one hundred thousand lives are lost to age related diseases every single day, and aging is the cause of untold suffering. In my view Christian people such as yourself should be standing up in support of defeating aging as a necessary moral and humanitarian goal consistent with the loftiest Christian principles.

Randall Parker said at February 8, 2012 8:16 PM:

Ben,

Regards the doubling of mortality: So many things go wrong with age that we will need repairs throughout the body to reverse the doubling. Organ replacement seems too limited in scope. Going thru and replacing large numbers of organs seems quite risky. We need repairs at smaller levels of granularity.

Some of the things I'm wondering about with regard to rejuvenation therapies:

Once we have treatments that will kill senescent cells will simply killing them be sufficient? Looks that way. Or will we need to first introduce youthful stem cells that can grow to create replacements as the senescent cells die?

My guess: killing the senescent cells by itself deliver a positive benefit which will have a ceiling on it because the replacements will be aged cells. We will be better off first introducing youthful stem cells, then kill off aged stem cells. So first make sure stem cells are young. Only then start slowly killing off senescent cells. That way the dying cells will get replaced with healthy youthful cells.

I would bet if we could do that sequence we'd get a big boost in life expectancy.

Next I would aim at killing off cells that have a lot of accumulated junk that are not yet senescent. Then go for killing off cancer cells that haven't mutated enough to spread (we all have such cancer cells localized in small nodes throughout our bodies).

Not sure about how big a role gene therapy will play. Reduced energy output by mitochondria is a big aging problem. Will gene therapy be able to address it well?

Randall Parker said at February 8, 2012 8:24 PM:

solaris,

I am not willing to die to make room so that other people can make babies. I do not see how their instinctual desire to make babies should outrank my desire to stay young, healthy, and alive.

Gabriel,

Whether or not Jesus died for our sins the process of aging is unpleasant and even very painful for millions of people. We can't avoid eventual death. But we can avoid aging given enough biotechnology.

dave.s. said at February 9, 2012 2:44 PM:

Wikipedia: "If the cases of Shigechiyo Izumi and Carrie White are discounted, Calment is the first person documented to reach 115 years of age. She is also the only person to have undisputedly lived for 120 years (and beyond)." - so, probability of death goes to zero for 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, and 121. Leads to optimism, no?

Violet said at February 9, 2012 2:59 PM:

I think having others die is a process by which I can advance my claim to use more resources.
Why should it be in my best interests to advance anti-aging then?

Also, like rich becomes richer (because one has enough initial investments) and powerful people getting more power over others, preventing aging will only aid existing rich and powerful to take advantage of it and continue to have benefits from it. Since majority of people (bell curve and all that) can't be up-there, why should they be interested in investing in it?

Also, making babies is a process resulting in more combinations of different genes and diversity, while anti-aging keeps the same copy which may be vulnerable to unexpected threats.

I don't see why anti-aging is an obvious all-benefit-minimum-cost option (as of now), especially if prime female fertile age (and usable eggs) is still compressed to be under 40yrs.

Perhaps with longer life times for all humans, our society may transition to something like elephants, but given short-term disadvantages is there any probability that the human society as a whole would even survive such transition?

Ben said at February 9, 2012 4:42 PM:

Violet,

Taking on face value that you believe it's a good thing for people to die because it benefits your claim to more resources, I would firstly note that you said 'die' and not 'age'. This being the case, presumably your argument could provide an equally effective defense for murder. Ignoring this and other more sinister implications of what you've asked, I would simply posit the question of whether what you're saying is even true at all. People dying certainly frees up some resources in the short term. After all, dead people are not consumers, or at the very least are minimal consumers (the cost of funerals, lawyers, estates, etcetera). However, dead people don't contribute either. The living on the other hand produce, innovate, teach, inspire and fund. People are a resource. By dying, individuals deprive you of their company and all the things they bring into the world. People are engines of prosperity and progress. They are the most valuable resource we have.

Not to mention, being old is really expensive. On average, more money is spent on medical care in the last year of a person's life than on all other years combined. Aging is a terrible, terrible waste of resources.

Finally, even if the deaths of others would grease the wheel of your own prosperity, you would still have to reconcile the fact that time (another valuable resource) is always running out. No amount of dying people is going to buy you more time on this earth in good health. Only scientific progress can do that. If you value your own life, support aging research, or soon you will have and be nothing (but you will suffer first).

Randall,

I'm not a biologist, but I keep a close eye on the news in this area of research, and the recent progress with eliminating senescent cells has me especially hopeful. It would appear to be a milestone in that it constitutes one of the first examples of a SENS'esque approach successfully reversing one form of aging, even if the mice were engineered to make things easier. I expect might be right about your suggested approach.

One thing's for sure though. For all the discussions of whether we should be pursuing this goal, such discussions are ultimately irrelevant (though not inconsequential). Aging will be reversed. The question now is simply 'when'? Will it be in time for our children? Our grandchildren? For us? The debates, resistance and timidity that are so unfortunately and misguidedly prevalent cannot prevent the inevitable outcome. They will only delay it. This terrain therefore represents the most high stakes ideological battleground in the history of our species. It just so happens that most people do not yet realize that the battle is already underway, or that they are participants in it.

solaris said at February 9, 2012 6:02 PM:

>"I am not willing to die to make room so that other people can make babies."


It's all about ME! ME ME ME!

solaris said at February 9, 2012 6:07 PM:

>"Is cancer a necessity? What about Alzheimers? Arthritis? Type II diabetes? Stroke? Heart disease? Age related blindness"

Yes, they are necessities. Or to be more precise, they serve a necessary purpose - getting rid of dead wood. Of course dead wood never sees itself as such.

>"Like I said, irrational and immoral'"

You take on rationality and morality might count for a little more is you were not so self-evidently childishly immature. Go read a sci-fi novel and imagine yourself as a god.

Violet said at February 9, 2012 6:41 PM:

Ben,

If one is arguing for personal selfish reasons, i.e. as Randall said above, "I do not see how their instinctual desire to make babies should outrank my desire to stay young, healthy, and alive.", then one has to consider other personal benefits from aging/dying of others. Dying from natural aging is only morally acceptable thing for us who want other's resources. Isn't war (other acceptable way of killing others) also an higher order murder? Is it realistic to think that humans will never have sinister thoughts?

I agree with you on "People are a resource" but then the usefulness of each person (or compensation) is based on experience in addition to any intelligence/knowledge/creativity. How are the younger people ever get that higher role if older people are always around? This discussion really didn't start with aging/dying, it is a big deal when one thinks of mandatory retirement, setting of retirement age and related things. A morbid grad student joke is that the faculty would at least die to make room for new positions/younger crop. If you take that away, how does one even innovate with same old thoughts and early life conditioning?

It is acceptable if everyone else is living to be old, and young people having longer time to be younger. But that is not so as one has to procreate around 30 (pushing to 40 - for female) for optimal offspring (i.e., without major genetic defects). So,it makes a 30 year old adult enough to support family but at the same time have to endure a lower status (ie in the use of resources) compared to their 100 year old grand father. It gives advantage to older men to procreate more with younger women and leaves younger men at an disadvantage.

Also, if we extend life, we don't get to pick only contributing individuals (and if we are going to pick, who is going to be "worthy"?), we would also get dead-beats and other "evil to society" people also living longer.
Aren't all these societal problems needs to be addressed before one arbitrarily prolongs healthy active life?

Ben said at February 9, 2012 7:13 PM:

Solaris,

"Yes, they are necessities. Or to be more precise, they serve a necessary purpose - getting rid of dead wood. Of course dead wood never sees itself as such."

Nothing 'childishly immature' (or you know, evil) about that is there folks? So do you suggest we abandon the entire medical project and stop pursuing cures for all terminal conditions? If not, how is your view consistent?

"Go read a sci-fi novel and imagine yourself as a god."

No thanks. I don't read sci fi, and I have no grandiose pretensions about our transhuman future. I would like to cure diseases that hurt people, though. You know, like most people. That okay with you?

Violet,

I think there are a number of legitimate concerns about extending people's youth. One of them is the one you raise about employment for the young. However, while these concerns are worth addressing, the solution is not to demand that countless people continue to suffer and die when the alternative is possible. Aging cripples and kills millions of people every year. That's a big problem. Stagnation in the workforce is a potential problem too, but it's hard to imagine how it could EVER be the greater of the two. Let's solve the big one, while thinking of creative solutions to the little things.

Mthson said at February 9, 2012 8:35 PM:

"It's all about ME! ME ME ME!"

We might not be able to save ourselves, but if we can cure aging for our children's generation, it will still have been the most moral thing we could have done with our lives.

We have nearly all of humankind behind us, even if they say otherwise, because they will use the treatments we develop. When the time comes, most people are not going to voluntarily kill themselves.

Violet said at February 9, 2012 9:05 PM:

Ben,

"Aging cripples and kills millions of people every year. That's a big problem. Stagnation in the workforce is a potential problem too,.."

That is only a short-term comparison of utility. I am wondering about the long-term problems (i.e, after 3-4 generations begin to live together as adults).
While I understand your POV that human suffering should be reduced, I think it is naive to not consider the costs that come with any reduction in suffering.
What I am concerned is, who is going to take that cost: individuals, present society, or future society?

Just as an example, you mention money spent on the medical care of aging population. That wasn't a cost in previous generations when people just died instead of spending time in critical care.

Like the Mthson above says, "When the time comes, most people are not going to voluntarily kill themselves."

Randall Parker said at February 9, 2012 11:53 PM:

Solaris,

Seriously, why should I die for others. What makes these others so much more valuable that I should die for them?

anonyq said at February 10, 2012 10:42 AM:

Most medical research is done to extend the lives of the under 70 year old. Not to let the over 70 year old live longer. And the medical research that is primarily done for the over 70 is to make them less costly (Alzheimer etc). Not to let them live longer. Also the connection between death year and most costly medical year starts to loose its truth above 80 as deaths become cheaper and the average year becomes more expensive

bmack500 said at February 10, 2012 6:06 PM:

Ben, I couldn't agree with you more.

Keep you death wish for yourself. Don't impose it on others. Besides, we have an entire universe to populate!

Randall Parker said at February 10, 2012 6:57 PM:

Violet,

Comparisons of utility: A very bright mind rejuvenated would be very productive. Many specialties take a couple of decades to fully master and by the time mastery has been achieved the mind is already deteriorating due to aging. Imagine a surgeon who hits his peak and stays there for decades. Surgeons peak between ages 35 and 50. Well, what a waste. Ditto for scientists and engineers.

Ben said at February 11, 2012 8:18 PM:

Violet,

As I've said, there are possible downsides to longevity that are worth considering. Name one that is serious enough as to deprioritize saving 100,000 lives a day by curing aging, and I'll stop supporting research into doing so.

Because that's what we're talking about: 100,000 people killed every single day. If it was something else killing them, and not aging, we'd be in a state of global emergency, and anyone who talked about comparatively trivial concerns as though they were genuine disincentives to ending the slaughter would rightly be considered a fool.

What's the difference?

Vladimir Vlasov said at February 17, 2012 6:43 AM:

A way of rejuvenation. A method for treating cancer. www.vlasov-vlad-fed. narod2.ru
Dear colleague!
This is a major discovery!
This is physics of the living organism! I tried to make a site: www.aging.ucoz.ru,
Look through mail.ru
It is necessary to know a little physics! Aging is a process in physics!
It is very difficult to understand and realize the importance of scientific discovery!
I want to print a theory of aging in your journal. What should I do?
All the best.

Darian Smith said at February 17, 2012 4:38 PM:

"You take on rationality and morality might count for a little more is you were not so self-evidently childishly immature. Go read a sci-fi novel and imagine yourself as a god."-solaris

Such a simple simple mind. Realize that what an agent can accomplish or become depends on the sytem or environment, the resources at his disposal. And the resources this century appears to provide are such, that one need not imagine but act.

Swee said at February 29, 2012 8:50 PM:

Every time you go to sleep, you die. Your brain wakes up, and the memories that were stored the day before lead you to think you are the same person. Ha.

Leonid Gavrilov said at March 10, 2012 4:25 PM:

Greetings,

You can meet the authors of this study, listen their lecture, ask your own questions and participate in discussions this Tuesday, March 13, in Chicago.

http://longevity-science.blogspot.com/2012/03/longevity-meeting-in-chicago-march-13.html
Shorter weblink:
http://tinyurl.com/Longevity-Lecture

What: Lecture by Gavrilov & Gavrilova "Mortality at Advanced Ages" (session A4) with subsequent Discussion
When: Tuesday, March 13, 2012, 1:45 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Where: Chicago, Illinois (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, 300 East Randolph Street), room Train 3

Logistic details:
http://www.chicagoactuarialassociation.org/future_events.html
and
http://www.chicagoactuarialassociation.org/2012_03_v3.pdf

For those who are interested, the meeting will be followed by informal discussion, which will become increasingly informal by 5:15 p.m. (cocktail reception) and even more so later by 5:45 p.m. (dinner).

Hope to see you at this meeting!

If you can not come to Chicago at this time, and would like to have a similar event at your organization, feel free to contact the authors at:

gavrilov@longevity-science.org

Leonid Gavrilov said at March 11, 2012 1:11 PM:

Greetings,

You can meet the authors of this study, listen their lecture, ask your own questions and participate in discussions this Tuesday, March 13, in Chicago.

Just Google for the “Chicago Actuarial Association”, click on “Future Events” there, and then go to 1:45 p.m. Workshop Sessions A:

“A4: Mortality at Advanced Ages (Life)”

Vladimir Vlasov said at August 14, 2013 7:06 PM:

Here, the real cause of aging! Www.vlasov-vlad-fed. narod2.ru; www.aging.ucoz.ru
We also give cause cancer!
15.08.2013, the

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