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Board Member in the News: In Nature, S. Jay Olshansky comments on Jan Vijg’s research on Maximum Human Lifespan

Oct 6

Board Member in the News: In Nature, S. Jay Olshansky comments on Jan Vijg’s research on Maximum Human Lifespan View MoreBACK

In the latest issue of Nature, AFAR board Member S. Jay Olshansky, PhD, comments on compelling new research, co-authored by 2012 AFAR Irving Wright Award of Distinction Winner Jan Vijg, PhD, which suggests that there is a limit to maximum human lifespan.

In Dr. Vijg’s article published in the same issue of Nature, the new research suggests although human life expectancy has risen fairly steadily and rapidly over the past 150 years, maximum lifespan--the age reached by the longest-lived individual--may have reached its upper limits.  Dr. Vijg and his fellow researchers have discovered that in most countries the greatest improvement in survival in the oldest age groups peaked in about 1980 and has not shifted since. 

In response, Dr. Olshansky, explores further the connection between lifespan and healthspan— the time we are in optimal health as we age—and the progress that has been through biomedical research on the processes of aging.

Dr. Olshansky states: “The idea of a ‘natural limit’ to life does not imply that such a limit is a direct by-product of some genetically driven program that causes both ageing and death…The absence of ageing and death programs opens the door to non-genetic interventions that extend health and length of life, just as new training methods enable us to run incrementally faster. This is precisely why modifying behavioral risk factors such as diet and exercise does extend the period of healthy life, but yields diminishing gains in life expectancy.”

Although Nature is a subscription-only journal, an abstract can be read here.  

Dr. Olshansky also lent insights on this research to The New York Times, here.

S. Jay Olshansky, PhD, is a Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Research Associate at the Center on Aging at the University of Chicago and at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  Learn more about Dr. Olshansky’s work and accomplishments here.