Never mind life beginning at 40: 72 is the 'new 30' for people in the West, say scientists

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UPDATED:

19:19 GMT, 15 October 2012


Scientists say that quality of life has improved so much in the developed world that a modern-day hunter gatherer who dies at 30 would have lived to age 72 in Japan or Sweden

Scientists say that quality of life has improved so much in the developed world that a modern-day hunter gatherer who dies at 30 would have lived to age 72 in Japan or Sweden

Forget 40 being the new 30 or life beginning at 50 – today’s death rate has fallen so much that 72 is apparently the ‘new 30’.

German scientists have studied the death rate of modern-day hunter-gatherers whose way of life has not changed for many generations.

They looked at tribal people in Australia, Africa, South America and the Philippines to put in perspective recent changes of life expectancy in the developed world.

They found that at 30 years old, these people had the same chance of dying as Japanese people aged 72.

Comparing hunter gatherers with the long-lived Japanese, the authors led by Dr Oskar Burger, from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, wrote: ‘Hunter gatherers at age 30 have the same probability of death as present-day Japanese at the age of 72.

In fact, hunter-gatherer death rates were closer to those of chimpanzees than to citizens of Japan or Sweden, the research showed.

Since about 1840, life spans in the longest-lived populations have increased by about three months per year, said the researchers.

Up to the age of around 15, hunter gatherers had death rates more than 100 times higher than those seen in modern-day Japan and Sweden. Across the whole of their life spans they had a more than 10-fold greater likelihood of dying

Up to the age of around 15, hunter gatherers had death rates more than 100 times higher than those seen in modern-day Japan and Sweden.
Across the whole of their life spans they had a more than 10-fold greater likelihood of dying

Most of the death-rate reduction had occurred since 1900 and been experienced by only about four of the roughly 8,000 human generations that have ever lived.

Up to the age of around 15, hunter gatherers had death rates more than 100 times higher than those seen in modern-day Japan and Sweden.

Across the whole of their life spans they had a more than 10-fold greater likelihood of dying.

Hunter gatherer death rates and those of people in Sweden were much closer in 1900 than they are today, said the scientists.

The increase in human life expectancy had been largely achieved ‘by removing environmental shocks, by making injuries and illnesses less fatal with medical technology, and by enhancing health at older ages by improving nutrition and reducing disease at younger ages.'

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.