What is the longest possible human lifespan?

Sophie Bushwick discusses why the research points to approximately 120 years.

Vocabulary: life expectancy, lifespan, lifespan, outlier, cells

NGSS: LS1.B: Growth and Development of Organisms, CCC2: Cause and Effect: Mechanism and Explanation


Aging Process via Shutterstock

How long do you want to live? How long can we live, as modern medicine and lifestyle changes raise the average global life expectancy? New research published in Nature suggests there’s likely a fixed expiration date for the human body. Popular Science senior editor Sophie Bushwick joins Ira to talk about how the rise in life expectancy relates to the actual cap on our lifespan.

Audio Excerpt “A Limit to Lifespan” Oct 7, 2016. (Original Segment). Image by Marina Guimarães from Brasília, Brasil via Flickr.

Print this segment transcript.

Questions for Students

  • There was a increase in life expectancy between 2000 and 2015. Explain why a change in infant mortality would affect our calculation of life expectancy. Think about living and health conditions worldwide. Why do you think humans are living longer?
  • Explain the difference between average human lifespan and maximum human lifespan.
  • Why is the maximum human lifespan 120?
  • Sophie Bushwick characterizes reaching maximum human lifespan as “…death by 1,000 papercuts.” Explain what she means by that analogy.

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