(HealthDay)—It's said that life is short. But people living in developed countries typically survive more than twice as long as their hunter-gatherer ancestors did, making 72 the new 30, according to new research.
Most of the decline in early mortality has occurred in the past century, or four generations, a finding that calls into question traditional theories about aging, the study authors noted.
"I still can't believe how recent most of the progress is," said Oskar Burger, lead author of a study published online Oct. 15 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
But there's a larger message from the research: Our estimates about the limits of human lifespans may be too low. The study findings "make it seem unlikely that there is a looming wall of death ... which kills off individuals at a certain age" because of genetic mutations that build up as we age, said Burger, a postdoctoral fellow at Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany. The study authors analyzed the mortality rates in the western world today and those of prehistoric hunter-gatherers. "We show that human mortality has decreased so substantially that the difference between hunter-gatherers and today's lowest-mortality populations is greater than the difference between hunter-gatherers and wild chimpanzees," the researchers wrote.