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Global patterns of human ageing

By Saul Justin Newman, Simon Easteal

Posted 05 Apr 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/124792

Ageing is a common, but not universal1−3, degradation of biological systems. Ageing in human populations is marked by a highly constrained, log-linear acceleration of the probability of mortality with age4. This acceleration determines the onset and duration of human morbidity5 and the upper limits of human life. Recent studies have revealed remarkable taxonomic diversity in mortality-derived ageing rates1,3. However, the extent of intraspecific variation in ageing rates is assumed to be negligible2. Here we show the considerable diversity of human ageing rates, across 81,000 population-specific longitudinal measures of the ageing rate derived from 330 billion life-years of mortality data. These data reveal remarkable flexibility and unexpected trends in the pattern of human ageing. Populations with longer life spans have faster rates of ageing, global ageing rates have doubled historically and women age faster than men. Furthermore, we show that diverse causes of death accelerate at a similar rate with age, that removal of leading causes of death does not alter the ageing rate, and that ageing rates are linked to reproductive schedules in humans. These results challenge accepted ideas in ageing research and provide a broad empirical grounding to study human ageing through population diversity.

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