Natural human lifespan in the wild, without modern medicine

Gorillas live up to 37 years in the wild (I think). How long is the lifespan of a human in the wild? If someone has a minor heart attack, they just go to the hospital to get treated. But if we didn’t have hospitals or any other form of modern medicine, we would no longer be artificially prolonging our lives. So how long would a human’s lifespan be, then?

Which man? What wilds? What season(s)?

All legitimate questions I’m sure.

The Alaskan Tundra, the plains of Africa, the forests of the Great Northwest, the Amazon etc.-all requiring different skillsets.

About 3 score and 10.

The trick is to survive infancy and childhood, and not be worked to death as a slave/serf.

Does the human in the wild get to be clean? Boil water before drinking, clean wounds, scrub hands, and other things germ theory taught us?

Or does that count as modern medicine?

Which was quite a feat in some areas/times. Ramesses II may have reached 90, but ancient Egyptian peasants unfortunately suffered from the trifecta of rampant disease, poor adult nutrition and less than enviable work conditions. Not only was the average life expectancy from birth very low ( with maybe 33% infant mortality ), but the average adult rarely made it into their late thirties.

Different wilds for different…tribes, but may be worthwhile looking at some case studies of human societies who live in the way you describe, outside the conveniences of civilisation.

The Kalahari Bushmen are hunter-gatherers not living unlike how every one of our ancestors lived before the Neolithic Revolution and the rise of farming, and consequently cities and civilisation. Their life expectancy is tricky to calculate exactly, but seems to be around the 45 year mark.

Interestingly Amazonian tribesmen far from the nearest A&E aren’t far from the mid-forties either;

A pretty decent run you might think, but it’s not all roses; take the life expectancy of the indigenous Aeta people of the Philippines;

In Australia a few of the Pintupi Nine, who lived as hunter-gathery as possible, were in their late 30s.

On the North American front, Ishi, the ‘last wild Indian’, was about 49 when he contacted civilisation, but died a few years later. So like many things in life the answer is a firm ‘it depends…’ Wiki has an interesting list of those who you might think of as living ‘in the wild’ and without modern medicine.

0k, I found more information. According this link, humans are one of a few mammal species that live longer than they should based on body size. It says that the lifespan of humans should only be 26 years. I myself believe that humans were meant to have a lifespan of 25 years, because human skeletons usually finish development at age 25. In other words, they’re full fledged skeletons at this age. But if a human lives past age 25, maybe they’re just lucky. That’s my opinion, at least.

However, it is stated that humans live 35 years in the wild, Teaching Science Fact with Science Fiction - Gary Raham - Google Books and that the range of their lifespan in the wild is 35-40 years:

Although one paper shows the modal age of hunter-gatherers (none of which have much contact with modern medicine) as being 69 years in Figure 4, and is the first study to track ages at deaths for all hunter-gatherer populations on earth, there are very few hunter-gatherer populations around. A human who is out in the earth as he/she is born to, who has to look for food and water, and without ever going to a hospital, or any other form of medicine; this is the natural way humans live. Only (some) hunter-gatherers live like this, but they are only a minority in the world population. And 69 years is the modal age at death for this minority. But if everyone in the world was a lived like this, the modal age at death might be (and most likely, it would be), 35 years, with a range of 35-40 years. So to summarize:

Lifespan of most people who are currently still living the natural way (out in the earth as he/she is born to, who has to look for food and water, and without ever going to a hospital, or any other form of medicine): 69 years

Lifespan of most people living the natural way, if everyone on earth lived that way: 35 years (range of 35-40 years)

I think I’ll just post my opinion again. I don’t know, seems like a good opinion to me. My opinion: the natural lifespan of humans is 25 years, because human skeletons usually finish development at age 25 and are full fledged skeletons at this age.

“Meant to?” By whom? Evolution doesn’t have goals and quotas, and if you’ve got to use the god hypothesis, I doubt any of us would see 26 if an omnipotent creator meant us not to.

I’m pretty sure that most animals continue to live long past the moment their skeletons are “full fledged.” Your opinion doesn’t make much sense.

Isaac Asimov once put together a chart of mammalian life-span in terms of heartbeats. The results were remarkably uniform…except for humans. We live for about twice as long, measured in heartbeats, as other mammals.

There is some speculation this may be due to our neotenous physiology. We “remain young” pretty much all our lives.

I had a friend who spent a lot of time with the indigenous natives in the new Guinea highlands, and then some time with some of the indigenous natives in the Amazon.

According to him, the IQ of the adult natives was considerably higher than what he considered “average” for “civilized” society.

Similarly, he said their general health was better than their counterparts in “civilized” society.

He attributed these things to the culling process during early childhood. To survive that, you had to be both very smart and very healthy.

However, he did say that in New Guinea they did show signs of salt deficiency; although this did not seem to affect their lives too much.

I would note that even the most primitive tribes will have access to basic medecine for things like broken bones, wounds, etc…or even simply nurturing/feeding of ill people while they recover.

I suspect this should be taken into account somehow when comparing life expectancy of “humans in the wild” and animals, although I’ve no clue how large a difference it would make.

There’s a huge difference between life span and life expectancy.

The human life span has always been 100, more or less. It’s genetically determined.

Life expectancy is often much less, depending on nutrition, health care, occupational opportunities, and many other factors. In some places, you’re doing well if you live to be 35.

Not really, no.

Up to the late middle ages, the ability to mend broken bones consisted of wrapping it in bandages soaked in mud or similar. That worked better than nothing for minor fractures, but a literal break in a long bone, wrist or ankle would result in the limb being reduced to 25% function simply because those materials can;t apply enough traction.

And the treatment for wounds was, unsurprisingly, about s good as the treatment in pre-Renaissance Europe. ie, mumbo jumbo such as bleeding, dung poultices or a potion made with the urine of a chimney sweep.

Human medicine was fairly much non-exitent throughout history. It amazes me that so many people think that illiterate HGs somehow managed something better than what literate China or Europe created.
I suspect this should be taken into account somehow when comparing life expectancy of “humans in the wild” and animals, although I’ve no clue how large a difference it would make.

That’s about the best that pre-modern medicine managed.

Not much, simply because most things that kill you will kill you regardless of care. While a child that contracts a case of tetanus will have a somewhat higher chance of survival if fed and kept warm, it’s not so much higher that it has a major effect on life expectancy. The fact that humans overwhelmingly died in infancy also meant that if one childhood disease didn’t kill you, another probably would.

It’s the fact that most people died before puberty that dragged human life expectancy down, not the fact adults were being aided in recovery. Since all mammals will feed and care for their young when hey are sick, it’s not like humans were doing anything unusual.

The question is, How long would a human live if he managed to avoid events during his life that would cause death before dying of old age, including pathogens that his body was unable to fight off, and who was possessed of a normal ration of wits and physical capacity, and most importantly, had access to a social organization to provide for what humans have not evolved to do as individuals.

Considering the last of those criteria, it is recognized that man did not evolve the skills necessary to survive in isolation, and is not likely to survive in any environment without the aid of fellow men.

It is said that at Botany Bay, there were no fences to keep the convicts within the confines of the colony. Any one was free to walk away, but there is no record of a single one surviving more than a week or so in the outback without the aid of accomplices.

The human lifespan is the same now as it has been for thousands of year, by all evidence.

There is no evolutionary pressure or advantage to living beyond the age at which grandparents help raise grandchildren (traditional tribal group societies) and in fact at a certain age they are a drag on the overall population - to old and frail, blind or uncoordinated to hunt, spin and weave to make clothes, make weapons, etc.

The life span (how old one gets before general failures of old age somehow will do you in) probably hasn’t changed much. Of course, this varies by individual and is influenced by overall health too. Perhaps we’re trading diseases due to exhaustion, being worn out, for those due to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. The guy I know who walked to the train station for half an hour each way 5 days a week for the last 50 years is still going strong at 89.

Life expectancy a statistic based on the likelihood and survivability of assorted diseases and afflictions, accidents, war, etc. - has increased remarkably, as the OP remarks due to modern medicine, and of course due to easily available nutrition, less general warfare, safety measures, public health standards for food, etc. Our bodies don’t do any better, just more likely to avoid a number of the causes of early death from past centuries.

Of course, it’s hard to compare humans, who live in herds but in established dens, and make a point of caring for their young and old - versus typical herd animals where the ones who cannot keep up either cannot move enough to eat enough, or become wolf chow; or the solitary carnivores who will die once they cannot match the performance of fellow hunters or catch prey. Animals bring food for the young, but I’m not aware of any other social organization where animals continue to bring food to elderly non-productive members of the group.

A bit of a diversion here:

I have read in numerous sources that stone age men practiced surgery. Particularly they seem to have practiced trepanning, and there are several skulls existing that showed that the “patient” survived the surgery and the hole shows significant healing.

Given that they were able to accomplish this, does this suggest that they had other surgical and infection control capabilities?

If they could perform successful skull surgery, surely they could have set broken bones?

Not really a GQ answer but it cant be much more than 40. This is an anecdote of course. Im 45 years old now. Ive been healthy my whole life but about the time I turned 40 I had a significant downturn in my health. Not serious health issues either. Mostly slow healing and a propensity for musculoskeletal injuries. So if I had to depend solely on myself I would make it to about 40. Eventually, I would suffer some sort of joint injury and because of how slowly that injury takes to heal these days, I would not be able to hunt for a significant period of time. This would cause a downward spiral in my health that would eventually result in my death.