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
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.
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.
- Discuss the methodology of the study on maximum lifespans. Researchers analyzed demographic data in relation to medical advances, which you can read through in this article about the lifespan study and this article about the implications of the study. Have students look a demographic data available in your region. What kinds of questions could they develop that might be answered by a mathematical analysis of the available data.
- Although our cells are less able to repair and recover as we age, cells in the human body replace themselves at different rates. Use this segment to introduce this concept to students and have them further analyze the reason for this process in our bodies. You can start with this article about the age of the cell in the human body.