Journal Article

How long do centenarians survive? Life expectancy and maximum lifespan

Modig, K., Andersson, T., Vaupel, J. W., Rau, R., Ahlbom, Anders

Journal of Internal Medicine, 282:2, 156-163 (2017)



Objectives: The purpose of this study was to explore the pattern of mortality above the age of 100 years. In particular, we aimed to examine whether Scandinavian data support the theory that mortality reaches a plateau at particularly old ages. Whether the maximum length of life increases with time was also investigated.

Methods: The analyses were based on individual level data on all Swedish and Danish centenarians born from 1870 to 1901; in total 3006 men and 10 963 women were included. Birth cohort-specific probabilities of dying were calculated. Exact ages were used for calculations of maximum length of life. Whether maximum age changed over time was analysed taking into account increases in cohort size.

Results: The results confirm that there has not been any improvement in mortality amongst centenarians in the past 30 years and that the current rise in life expectancy is driven by reductions in mortality below the age of 100 years. The death risks seem to reach a plateau of around 50% at the age 103 years for men and 107 years for women. Despite the rising life expectancy, the maximum age does not appear to increase, in particular after accounting for the increasing number of individuals of advanced age.

Conclusion: Mortality amongst centenarians is not changing despite improvements at younger ages. An extension of the maximum lifespan and a sizeable extension of life expectancy both require reductions in mortality above the age of 100 years.