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Centenarian Stats: Living Long Gets Easier

Mortality rates for those who make it past 105 level off

Blue and white number birthday candles spelling out 105.

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An Italian study shows that at extreme ages, your chances of dying actually slow down.

En español | Getting to age 100 is more common than ever, and a new study indicates that once you reach the milestone, you’ve got a decent chance of adding a few more years to your life.

An analysis by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Sapienza University in Rome found that very old people actually “plateau” in terms of mortality, with death rates slowing down significantly as one approaches and passes 100. The research, based on a study of the very old in Italy, was published recently in the journal Science. There were more than 3,800 people in Italy over the age of 105 — nearly 90 percent of them women — during the period of study, from 2009 to 2015.

“By using clean data from a single nation and straightforward estimation methods,” the research authors wrote, “we have shown that death rates, which increase exponentially up to about age 80, do decelerate thereafter and reach or closely approach a plateau after age 105.” The probability of dying in the next year at age 110 is the same as at age 105 — a little less than 1 in 2.

“Our findings are surprising,” UC Berkeley professor emeritus of demography and statistics Kenneth Wachter told the San Jose Mercury News. “The older you get, the faster your chances of dying. But that disappears at extreme ages, suggesting a deep underlying mechanism.” Researchers believe that genetics play a big role in extreme longevity.

“It persuades us that we aren’t coming close to a limit in the human life span,” Wachter, the senior author of the study, told the Mercury News. “We don’t know whether there is some age limit out there. But if there is, we aren’t approaching it yet.”

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