Title: Limits to human life span through extreme value theory
Authors: John Einmahl - Tilburg University (Netherlands) [presenting]
Jesson Einmahl - Tilburg University (Netherlands)
Laurens de Haan - Erasmus University Rotterdam (Netherlands)
Abstract: There is no scientific consensus on the fundamental question whether the probability distribution of the human life span has a finite endpoint or not and, if so, whether this upper limit changes over time. Crucially, the limit is not defined as the highest observed age at death but the highest age that possibly could be reached. Our approach to the problem is to concentrate on precisely observed mortality data. The study is based on a unique dataset of the ages at death in days of all Dutch residents, born in the Netherlands, who died in the years 1986-2015 at a minimum age of 92 years. Unlike most other studies we use extreme value theory and base our analysis on the configuration of thousands of mortality data of old people, not just the few oldest old. The existence of a finite upper limit to the life span will follow from the fact that the 30 annual extreme value indices (not only their estimates) take on only negative values. We find compelling statistical evidence that there is indeed an upper limit to the life span of men and to that of women for all the 30 years we consider and, moreover, that there are no indications of trends in these upper limits over the last 30 years, despite the fact that the number of people reaching high age (say 95 years) is increasing rapidly, almost tripling, in these 30 years. Using extreme value theory, we also present estimates for the endpoints and for the force of mortality at high age.