Is there a cap on longevity? A statistical review
Annual Review of Statistics and Its Application, 21–45 (2022)
There is sustained and widespread interest in understanding the limit, if there is any, to the human life span. Apart from its intrinsic and biological interest, changes in survival in old age have implications for the sustainability of social security systems. A central question is whether the endpoint of the underlying lifetime distribution is finite. Recent analyses of data on the oldest human lifetimes have led to competing claims about survival and to some controversy, due in part to incorrect statistical analysis. This article discusses the particularities of such data, outlines correct ways of handling them, and presents suitable models and methods for their analysis. We provide a critical assessment of some earlier work and illustrate the ideas through reanalysis of semisupercentenarian lifetime data. Our analysis suggests that remaining life length after age 109 is exponentially distributed and that any upper limit lies well beyond the highest lifetime yet reliably recorded. Lower limits to 95% confidence intervals for the human life span are about 130 years, and point estimates typically indicate no upper limit at all.