The Hope Of A Very Long Life Turned Out To Be A Statistical Mistake

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The Hope Of A Very Long Life Turned Out To Be A Statistical Mistake
The Hope Of A Very Long Life Turned Out To Be A Statistical Mistake

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The hope of a very long life turned out to be a statistical mistake

In recent years, a number of publications have appeared that among very old people, the mortality rate is decreasing - especially among those over a hundred years old. As a result, there were assumptions about the unlimited limits of human life. However, it appears that statistical bias, rather than biological factors, is behind the data on the decline in mortality in the elderly.

The hope of a very long life turned out to be a statistical mistake
The hope of a very long life turned out to be a statistical mistake

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The results of a new Australian study cast doubt on the hypothesis that human life expectancy can be significantly increased. The research findings of Saul Newman of the Australia National University in Canberra have been published in PLOS Biology.

In recent years, a number of publications have appeared that among very old people, the mortality rate is decreasing - especially among those over a hundred years old. As a result, various assumptions appeared regarding the unlimited limits of human life. However, according to the author of the new study, statistical errors are not behind the data on the decline in mortality in the elderly.

As a person ages, like representatives of all other biological species, the likelihood of death increases every year. In other words, as you get older, the likelihood of dying within a year slowly but steadily increases. Intuitively, we all know that if a young person dies, it is a tragedy, because we do not expect it. When people aged 80-90 die, it is sad, but not surprising.

But some studies in different species, including humans, have shown that mortality growth slows down at very old age, flattening the mortality curve. Some biological explanations have been developed for this slowdown in mortality in old age, but they have proven to be controversial. And then a version of the existence of a statistical error was proposed.

In his report, Newman shows that various errors, both individually and collectively, lead to the appearance of a decline in mortality at a very old age and can largely explain the observed trends. Errors can be found both in demographic data and in birth and death records, age data, etc.

In the past, there have often been cases when young people, for one reason or another, deliberately overestimated or underestimated their age. As the population ages, older people, erroneously recorded as younger, die earlier, and erroneously recorded as older, respectively, later, increasing the group of very old people and flattening the mortality curve.

Newman found that even one error in ten thousand cases would be sufficient to obtain the observed decrease in the mortality schedule, since the number of centenarians itself is relatively small. In addition, he was able to show that the improvement in the quality of data collection was accompanied by a decrease in the trend towards slowing mortality at very old age.

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