Book Chapter

Human longevity: trends and determinants

Maier, H., Vaupel, J. W.

In: Silbereisen, R. K., Reitzle, M. (Eds.): Psychologie 2000: Bericht über den 42. Kongreß der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Psychologie in Jena 2000, 174-183 (2001)
Lengerich [u.a.]: Pabst Science Publishers.

ISBN 3-935357-33-8


The duration of life has captured the attention of people for thousands of years. Deaths at younger ages are now unusual in developed countries. Most deaths occur there at older ages, and survival at older ages has become a hot topic. If death at older ages can be further postponed, then the rate of growth of the population of the oldest old will quicken, which will have major economic and social consequences. These may include escalation in the costs of health care and retirement programs as well as changes in the way people think about their lives and their plans for how to spend their time. In this paper we review selected recent findings on survival at older ages. We first examine mortality in relation to age, and here we emphasize the intriguing result that mortality deceleration occurs in human and non-human populations. In a next step we investigate trends in late life mortality in recent decades. There were marked improvements in survival at older ages, which is in contrast to the belief that there are fixed limits to length of life and life expectancy. In a concluding section we focus on behavioral and psychological factors that may be relevant for determining mortality outcomes.