Alleged Upper Bounds to Lifespans Continue to Be Surpassed

(p. A2) In a 2002 paper, “Broken Limits to Life Expectancy” the demographers Jim Oeppen and James Vaupel showed that for nearly 100 years, estimates of when life expectancy would hit its limit were proven wrong, often in just a few years. In 2020, Max Roser of the University of Oxford noted that this trend was still intact.

There is no guarantee, of course, that this trend will continue over time or everywhere. Perhaps pandemics, weather disasters or fentanyl deaths will become widespread enough to outweigh improvements in cancer treatment and so on. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

The better bet, according to demographers, is that children born this year will live longer than children born in any previous year.

For the full commentary, see:

Josh Zumbrun. “THE NUMBERS; The Good News About Life Expectancy.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, December 16, 2023): A2.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date December 15, 2023, and has the title “THE NUMBERS; The (Surprisingly) Good News on Life Expectancy: It’s Still Going Up.”)

The Oeppen and Vaupel article mentioned above is:

Oeppen, Jim, and James W. Vaupel. “Broken Limits to Life Expectancy.” Science 296, no. 5570 (May 10, 2002): 1029-31.

The 2020 article by Roser, updating the Oeppen and Vaupel paper, is:

Roser, Max. “The Rise of Maximum Life Expectancy: Predictions of a Maximum Limit of Life Expectancy Have Been Broken Again and Again.” Last updated March 1, 2020 [cited Sat., Dec. 16, 2023]. Available from

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