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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015 Jan;70(1):1-9. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glu009. Epub 2014 Feb 17.

Biodemography of old-age mortality in humans and rodents.

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Center on Aging, NORC at the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Center on Aging, NORC at the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.


The growing number of persons living beyond age 80 underscores the need for accurate measurement of mortality at advanced ages and understanding the old-age mortality trajectories. It is believed that exponential growth of mortality with age (Gompertz law) is followed by a period of deceleration, with slower rates of mortality increase at older ages. This pattern of mortality deceleration is traditionally described by the logistic (Kannisto) model, which is considered as an alternative to the Gompertz model. Mortality deceleration was observed for many invertebrate species, but the evidence for mammals is controversial. We compared the performance (goodness-of-fit) of two competing models-the Gompertz model and the logistic (Kannisto) model using data for three mammalian species: 22 birth cohorts of U.S. men and women, eight cohorts of laboratory mice, and 10 cohorts of laboratory rats. For all three mammalian species, the Gompertz model fits mortality data significantly better than the "mortality deceleration" Kannisto model (according to the Akaike's information criterion as the goodness-of-fit measure). These results suggest that mortality deceleration at advanced ages is not a universal phenomenon, and survival of mammalian species follows the Gompertz law up to very old ages.


Gompertz law; Mortality deceleration.; Old-age mortality

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