Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, said progress in lowering the risk of death at all ages has been so rapid since 1900 that life expectancy has risen faster than it did in the previous 200 millennia since modern man began to evolve from hominid species…

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, looked at Swedish and Japanese men – two countries with the longest life expectancies today. It concluded that their counterparts in 1800 would have had lifespans that were closer to those of the earliest hunter-gatherer humans than they would to adult men in both countries today.

Those primitive hunter gatherers, at age 30, had the same odds of dying as a modern Swedish or Japanese man would face at 72.

Scientists who worked on the study said it was unclear what the possible upper limit for life expectancy would be. “How much longer can we extend life?” said Oskar Burger, lead researcher on the study. “We just don’t know.”