July 28, 2020 | Press Release

The oldest-old: Substantially fewer centenarians in Brazil

More women than men turn 100 years or older. © iStockphoto.com/MEDITERRANEAN

More than 24,000 individuals reported themselves to be at least 100 years old in Brazil in 2000, according to census data. Researchers have long been skeptical about these official figures. Now Marília Nepomuceno presents more realistic numbers. She concludes an extensive over enumeration of centenarians over the whole of the 20thcentury.

According to census data, 4,438 centenarians were living in Brazil in 1900. This number increased more than fivefold over the 20th century surpassing 24,000 in 2000. The Brazilian population is indeed getting older faster than in many wealthier regions. However, the estimated centenarian population is probably substantially smaller than the number of individuals counted by the census. It increased from fewer than 100 individuals in 1960 to about 2000 people in the year 2000.

Marília Nepomuceno, a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, and her colleague in Brazil estimate the most likely number of centenarians during the 20th century in Brazil. The authors present figures that are more consistent with the levels of mortality of the country. They estimate that in the beginning of the 20th century there was not a single centenarian living in Brazil, while there were more than 4,000 centenarians recorded by census. Only in the last decade of the 20th century did the number of centenarians increase particularly fast.

The two researchers used Brazilian census data and different mortality models for their estimates. They published their results in the Population and Development Review. Their findings offer a starting point for studying centenarians in developing countries offering new parameters of the population over the age of 100, for an entire century, in the largest country of Latin America. This information could be valuable for further research on human longevity within the scope of developing countries.

Original publication

Nepomuceno, M.R., Turra, C.M.: The population of centenarians in Brazil: historical estimates from 1900 to 2000. Population and Development Review. (2020) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/padr.12355

Author of the paper

Research Scientist in the Research Group Lifespan Inequalities

Marília R. Nepomuceno


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The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.