Limits to human life span through extreme value theory

Jesson Einmahl, John Einmahl, L.F.M. de Haan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

There is no scientific consensus on the fundamental question whether the probability distribution of the human life span has a finite endpoint or not and, if so, whether this upper limit changes over time. Our study uses a unique dataset of the ages at death - in days - of all (about 285,000) Dutch residents, born in the Netherlands, who died in the years 1986-2015 at a minimum age of 92 years and is based on extreme value theory, the coherent approach to research problems of this type. Unlike some other studies we base our analysis on the configuration of thousands of mortality data of old people, not just the few oldest old. We find compelling statistical evidence that there is indeed an upper limit to the life span of men and to that of women for all the 30 years we consider and, moreover, that there are no indications of trends in these upper limits over the last 30 years, despite the fact that the number of people reaching high age (say 95 years) was almost tripling. We also present estimates for the endpoints, for the force of mortality at very high age, and for the so-called perseverance parameter.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the American Statistical Association
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jan 2019

Fingerprint

Extreme Value Theory
Life Span
Mortality
Probability Distribution
Configuration
Human
Extreme value theory
Life span
Estimate

Keywords

  • aging
  • endpoint
  • extreme value index
  • oldest
  • statistics of extremes

Cite this

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title = "Limits to human life span through extreme value theory",
abstract = "There is no scientific consensus on the fundamental question whether the probability distribution of the human life span has a finite endpoint or not and, if so, whether this upper limit changes over time. Our study uses a unique dataset of the ages at death - in days - of all (about 285,000) Dutch residents, born in the Netherlands, who died in the years 1986-2015 at a minimum age of 92 years and is based on extreme value theory, the coherent approach to research problems of this type. Unlike some other studies we base our analysis on the configuration of thousands of mortality data of old people, not just the few oldest old. We find compelling statistical evidence that there is indeed an upper limit to the life span of men and to that of women for all the 30 years we consider and, moreover, that there are no indications of trends in these upper limits over the last 30 years, despite the fact that the number of people reaching high age (say 95 years) was almost tripling. We also present estimates for the endpoints, for the force of mortality at very high age, and for the so-called perseverance parameter.",
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Limits to human life span through extreme value theory. / Einmahl, Jesson; Einmahl, John; de Haan, L.F.M.

In: Journal of the American Statistical Association, 01.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Limits to human life span through extreme value theory

AU - Einmahl, Jesson

AU - Einmahl, John

AU - de Haan, L.F.M.

PY - 2019/1

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N2 - There is no scientific consensus on the fundamental question whether the probability distribution of the human life span has a finite endpoint or not and, if so, whether this upper limit changes over time. Our study uses a unique dataset of the ages at death - in days - of all (about 285,000) Dutch residents, born in the Netherlands, who died in the years 1986-2015 at a minimum age of 92 years and is based on extreme value theory, the coherent approach to research problems of this type. Unlike some other studies we base our analysis on the configuration of thousands of mortality data of old people, not just the few oldest old. We find compelling statistical evidence that there is indeed an upper limit to the life span of men and to that of women for all the 30 years we consider and, moreover, that there are no indications of trends in these upper limits over the last 30 years, despite the fact that the number of people reaching high age (say 95 years) was almost tripling. We also present estimates for the endpoints, for the force of mortality at very high age, and for the so-called perseverance parameter.

AB - There is no scientific consensus on the fundamental question whether the probability distribution of the human life span has a finite endpoint or not and, if so, whether this upper limit changes over time. Our study uses a unique dataset of the ages at death - in days - of all (about 285,000) Dutch residents, born in the Netherlands, who died in the years 1986-2015 at a minimum age of 92 years and is based on extreme value theory, the coherent approach to research problems of this type. Unlike some other studies we base our analysis on the configuration of thousands of mortality data of old people, not just the few oldest old. We find compelling statistical evidence that there is indeed an upper limit to the life span of men and to that of women for all the 30 years we consider and, moreover, that there are no indications of trends in these upper limits over the last 30 years, despite the fact that the number of people reaching high age (say 95 years) was almost tripling. We also present estimates for the endpoints, for the force of mortality at very high age, and for the so-called perseverance parameter.

KW - aging

KW - endpoint

KW - extreme value index

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KW - statistics of extremes

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