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Vol. 60, No. 2, 2014
Issue release date: February 2014
Gerontology 2014;60:183-188

Uneven Futures of Human Lifespans: Reckonings from Gompertz Mortality Rates, Climate Change, and Air Pollution

Finch C.E. · Beltrán-Sánchez H. · Crimmins E.M.
aDavis School of Gerontology and Dornsife College, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif., and bCenter for Demography of Health and Aging, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisc., USA

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The past 200 years have enabled remarkable increases in human lifespans through improvements in the living environment that have nearly eliminated infections as a cause of death through improved hygiene, public health, medicine, and nutrition. We argue that the limit to lifespan may be approaching. Since 1997, no one has exceeded Jeanne Calment's record of 122.5 years, despite an exponential increase of centenarians. Moreover, the background mortality may be approaching a lower limit. We calculate from Gompertz coefficients that further increases in longevity to approach a life expectancy of 100 years in 21st century cohorts would require 50% slower mortality rate accelerations, which would be a fundamental change in the rate of human aging. Looking into the 21st century, we see further challenges to health and longevity from the continued burning of fossil fuels that contribute to air pollution as well as global warming. Besides increased heat waves to which elderly are vulnerable, global warming is anticipated to increase ozone levels and facilitate the spread of pathogens. We anticipate continuing socioeconomic disparities in life expectancy. © 2013 S. Karger AG, Basel

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