We(As in we in the last 100 years) have become absolutely fantastic at at survival, doing more to extend our lives over the past century than our forebears did in the 6.6 million years since we parted evolutionary ways with chimpanzees.
Current research, published online by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, touches upon the very popular questions of how long can we actually live?.
It makes clear that life extension begins at birth, with a child born in the last four generations standing a better chance of being alive during infancy, adolescence, the reproductive years and after than in any of the 8,000 human generations that came before.
The study authors, from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, began by comparing people who have lived or now live in primitive hunter-gatherer societies around the globe in which lifespans have been well documented to citizens of industrialized countries in Europe and Asia.
A typical Swede, for instance, is more than 100 times more likely to survive to the age of 15 than a typical hunter-gatherer.
And a hunter-gatherer who has reached the ripe old age of 30 is about as likely to die in the following year as the world’s champion of longevity — a 72-year-old woman in Japan.
In evolution’s actuarial table, the researchers wrote, “72 is the new 30.”
The bulk of that progress has been made since 1800, when the average lifespan of a Swede at birth was 32. That is roughly on par with the 31 years that the average hunter-gatherer can expect to live.
By the year 1900, the average lifespan in Sweden had reached 52. Today it stands at 82 — an increase of more than 150 per cent in about 200 years.
Research that has induced genetic mutations in various species, scientists have boosted the longevity of nematode worms by more than 100 per cent, fruit flies by about 85 per cent and mice by roughly 50 per cent.
No species dramatizes the breathtaking rate of humans’ life extension more than chimpanzees, mankind’s closest relative. At any age, the life expectancy of a human in a hunter-gatherer society is closer to that of a chimp in the wild than it is to a modern-day resident of Japan or Sweden, according to the study.
The rapid improvements in human survival could only be accounted for by environmental changes, including better nutrition and medical advances; changes in the genome accumulate far too slowly to explain the progress.
“We have much to learn” before divining the limits of the human lifespan and understanding which forces push hardest against those limits, the authors wrote.
The results of the study “revealed with remarkable clarity the spectacular drop in human mortality that has occurred in some industrialized societies over the past few generations.”
One of the major downfalls of the study was that they failed to factor in the fact that obesity and other health problems have started to reduce life expectancy for some people in industrialized societies.
Althought pretty difficult to determine what that means for us as humans and how long we can actually live, the study does provide a lot of insight with the idea that it is possible to extend our lives. If you follow good sanitary habits, eat foods we are meant to eat and move our body the way our body was meant to move, there is no problem I think with living as long as you possibly can .