Better data collection, analysis reduces apparent declines in death rates in very old


EXCERPT: . . . As we age through adulthood, the probability of dying increases year after year. But studies in multiple species, including humans, have suggested that, at the far end of the lifespan, the rate of increase slows, or even plateaus. Biological explanations for such late-life mortality deceleration have been developed, but are controversial, and a role for statistical error has also been proposed.

In the new report, Saul Newman [of Australia National University in Canberra] shows that a variety of errors, individually and combined, have the effect of producing a slowing of apparent mortality at the end of the lifespan, and can largely explain away the observed trends. Categories of error include those in demographic sampling, birth and death records, age reporting, and others.

[...] Newman does note that in at least one species, the fruit fly, an observed late-life mortality plateau does not seem to be due to error, and may require a biological explanation. "Discriminating between real and artefactual cases will require careful case-by-case analysis, and will constitute an ongoing challenge in the study of aging."

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