Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Study: many of the “oldest” people in the world may not be as old as we think

A village mural in Sardinia, Italy.
A village mural in Sardinia, Italy. Sardinia is one of the few regions in the world with high concentration of people who live past 110.
 Massimiliano Maddanu/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A new paper explores what “supercentenarians” have in common. Turns out it’s bad record-keeping.

We’ve long been obsessed with the super-elderly. How do some people make it to 100 or even 110 years old? Why do some regions — say, Sardinia, Italy, or Okinawa, Japan —produce dozens of these “supercentenarians” while other regions produce none? Is it genetics? Diet? Environmental factors? Long walks at dawn?
A new working paper released on bioRxiv, the open access site for prepublication biology papers, appears to have cleared up the mystery once and for all: It’s none of the above.
Instead, it looks like the majority of the supercentenarians (people who’ve reached the age of 110) in the United States are engaged in — intentional or unintentional — exaggeration.
The paper, by Saul Justin Newman of the Biological Data Science Institute at Australian National University, looked at something we often don’t give a second thought to: the state of official record-keeping.
Across the United States, the state recording of vital information — that is, reliable, accurate state record-keeping surrounding new births — was introduced in different states at different times. A century ago, many states didn’t have very good record-keeping in place. But that changed gradually over time in different places. 
Newman looks at the introduction of birth certificates in various states and finds that “the state-specific introduction of birth certificates is associated with a 69-82% fall in the number of supercentenarian records.”  Click here to continue reading.

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