Who Lives to 100? Centenarian Facts

Old woman. (Image credit: stock.xchng)

Living to 100 and beyond is quite a feat. Here are some facts about centenarians:

1. Scientists are increasingly finding evidence that genes play an important role in pushing lifespan into the 90s and beyond.Indeed, extremely long lifespan is known to run in families, suggesting a genetic link.

2. In developed countries, the prevalence of centenarians is about 1-in-6,000. Supercentenarians, those who reach 110 years or more, are much rarer, only about 1-in-7 million people around the world live this long.

3. There's an old saying that goes something like this: If you live to be 80, it's more likely you'll live to be 100. There's some science to this, actually. Some people just don't seem to fall ill the way most folks do. Many centenarians are not marred by disease for decades, but rather seem to ward off afflictions, including dementia, heart disease and hypertension, until close to the end of their lives. On average, centenarians can delay disease until the age of 93, according to Tom Perls, of Boston University School of Medicine, who studies centenarians.

4. The majority of centenarians, 85 percent, are women. Scientists still don't know why women outlive men on average.

5. Interestingly, although many more women live past 100, the men who do survive to this old age tend to be fitter and healthier than their female counterparts. This may be because women are better able to deal with disease, so they can develop an aliment and still survive, while men are more susceptible to death from disease, according to Perls. So the men who live to extremely old age have to be relatively healthy to survive, Perls said.

6. No one region of the world appears to have an abundance of centenarians, Perls said, though he notes the topic needs further research.

7. The oldest confirmed living person was Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997 at the age of 122.

Live Science Staff
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