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World's Oldest People? They're Not That Old

Supercentenarians aren't as common as we think, paper suggests
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2019 11:45 AM CDT
Stock image.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Want to grow to a ripe old age? You might have to discard advice given in "oldest person alive" articles that keep cropping up, Vox reports. A new working paper posted online appears to show that most supercentenarians—that is, people who live to 110—are probably exaggerating their age, intentionally or otherwise. According to the paper by Saul Justin Newman, a data scientist in Australia, much of it hinges on record-keeping. In the US, states began keeping reliable birth records in different years, and Newman finds that "the state-specific introduction of birth certificates is associated with a 69-82% fall in the number of supercentenarian records."

That means seven or eight of every ten apparent supercentenarians could really be younger than they thought. And in another twist, Newman says hardscrabble areas of Italy and Japan—where life expectancy is low and, in Italy, crime rates high—have more reported supercentenarians. But why? The paper suggests these people are more likely to perpetrate fraud, perhaps claiming to be a dead person who would be 110 in order to claim their pension. That jibes with a 2010 finding that 238,000 people in Japan who claimed to be over 100 years old were actually dead or missing, per LiveScience. All that said, Newman's paper is yet to be peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal. (Read more supercentenarians stories.)

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