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Living longer comes easier

Human longevity largely a modern phenomenon

5:34pm, October 15, 2012

Despite what the fashion magazines tell you, 40 isn’t the new 30. Seventy is.

A new study finds that humans are living so much longer today compared with the rest of human history that the probability of dying at 72 is similar to the death odds our ancestors likely faced at 30.

This uptick in longevity is quite recent — occurring in the last century and a half — which suggests it has little to do with genes, starvation diets or anti-aging miracle drugs. Rather, it is likely due to eliminating environmental dangers faced by Homo sapiens of old, an evolutionary anthropologist and his colleagues argue online October 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Sanitation measures that clean up drinking water, regular access to food, plus antibiotics and vaccines seem to go a long way toward fighting off death.

“It’s striking,” says Ronald Lee, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley who

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