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Limits on life

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Human life spansNatureHuman Mortality DatabaseLife expectancyJeanne CalmentScientists

Human life spans may be limited to a maximum of about 115 years, claim US scientists. 

Their conclusions, published in the journal Nature, were made by analysing decades of data on human longevity.

They said a rare few may live longer, but the odds were so poor you'd have to scour 10,000 planet Earths to find just one 125-year-old.

The team in New York analysed data from the Human Mortality Database and the deaths of super-centenarians (those over 110) in France, Japan, UK and US. 

The data showed increases in life expectancy were slowing in centenarians and that the maximum age of death had plateaued for at least two decades. 

But while some scientists have praised the study, others disagree.

Life expectancy has been increasing relentlessly since the nineteenth century - due to vaccines, safer childbirth and tackling killers like cancer and heart disease. 

The oldest ever person, whose age can be backed up by official documents, Jeanne Calment, was 122 when she died in 1997.

The French icon of longevity was born before the Eiffel Tower was constructed and met the painter Vincent van Gogh.

Nobody has since got near her venerable age.