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How Long Can Humans Live?

Maximum Human Lifespan: Actual vs. Theoretical Longevity


Updated June 30, 2014

How long can humans live? Demographers, epidemiologists, gerontologists and other researchers on aging have puzzled over this theoretical question. While life expectancy is a prediction of the length of an average person's life in any given population, the term lifespan refers to how long a single individual might live.

The longest-lived person in the world was Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days. She’s the only person in the world verified to have lived past the age of 120.

Since her death, 122 has become the “standard” for the maximum human lifespan, as it’s the longest any one has lived, to date. Researchers now use this age as a reference point.

To answer the question of how long any individual will ever be able to survive, demographers turn to mathematical models. These calculations depend on past mortality patterns, and take into account human aging curves – in particular, the point at which health begins to rapidly decline towards death.

Though the exact calculation remains a source of some debate, according to a 2009 article published in Biogerontology, a reasonable mathematical prediction puts the theoretical maximum human lifespan at about 126 years of age. That’s almost four years longer than Jeanne Calment’s life!


Byung Mook Weon and Jung Ho Je. “Theoretical estimation of maximum human lifespan.” Biogerontology. Volume 10, Number 1 (2009), 65-71.

Jayne C. Lucke & Wayne Hall. “Who wants to live forever?” EMBO reports VOL 6 | NO 2 | 2005. European Molecular Biology Organization.

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