Why has America stopped producing superold people?

If you look at the list of oldest people ever, the United States dominates the list, with 10 of the top 20 and 45 of the top 100 spots. However, if you look at the list of oldest people still alive, America is nowhere to be found in the top 10 with Japan and Italy clearly dominating. It’s not until you get to spot 12 that you get your first American and there’s only 2 in the top 20.

Given that most of the Americans on the list died in the late 90s and early 2000s, this seems to have been a very recent trend which probably means it doesn’t have a huge amount to do with the longer term trends in American health like obesity. How come America used to be so great at making superold people and now it can’t compete?

Given that the numbers are so few anyway, a brief lull in distribution is probably nothing more than the variation that’s normal in small random groups.

Fat people don’t live very long.

…at least respond to the question that was actually formulated. OP addressed that; if you think that their attempt to address it was insufficient, fine, but actually engage with it–don’t just ignore it/pretend like it’s not there.

It’s not that we’ve stopped producing superold people, it’s that other countries are catching up to us. And the two who are surpassing us, Italy and Japan, have diets that are not conducive to obesity and heart disease. And regarding obesity: it’s not just today’s obesity that’s the problem, but older people who’ve now been obese for decades, and therefore aren’t living as long. The statistics are finally catching up.

Some of the catch-up may also have to do with the fact that Americans love their lists, rankings, records and reports so much more than other cultures: the rest of us aren’t necessarily so much catching up on “making old people” as on “tracking our oldest people”. When my grandma turned 100 3 years ago, she got a medal from her local government. When one of my great-aunts turned 100 some 15 years prior, she got congratulations from friends and relatives.

But the oldest American currently alive isn’t even in the top 50 oldest Americans ever while the oldest alive Japanese person is the 2nd oldest ever and the oldest alive Italian is also the 2nd oldest ever. As recently as 2 years ago, 7 of the oldest Americans alive would have been in the top 50 but now there’s 0. This doesn’t sound like stasis, this sounds like an active erosion.

I doubt the people making it to the top of these lists are the obese for decades type and, even if they were, 2 years is way too fast for something like rising obesity to be much of a contributing factor.

If you sort by date of birth, it’s even more stark. Between 1895 - 1900, the US produced 13 out of 23 of the oldest people (56%) but between 1900 - 1903 it only produced 5 out of the 19 (26%). The decline is precipitous and the trend only accelerates if you extend it out a few years (If you assume everyone currently alive from before 1905 stays alive, then Americans would only make up 13% of that sample).

It seems like there was a real sea change in relative American mortality at the exact turn of the century and the difference looks pretty stark.

Is it a change in US mortality or change in rest of the world mortality?

At one time the Guinness Book of World Records had a caveat about claims for oldest person that many came unsupported by good documentation, relied on hearsay and other doubts. Assuming the 100 to be, as it says on the wrapping, verified, then part of the prominence of Americans relative to others pre-1900 may be because of institutional literacy, ie good quality records from the 19th century.

The overall small range of countries, esp if you exclude single entries suggests a non-demographic factor influencing results. Japan as an isolate within Asia perhaps, but France as somehow gerontologically (?) different to Scandinavia, Mediterranean countries to such a degree? Can’t see anything compelling there.

The most strongly known method for life extension is diet restriction. The body puts itself into a sort of “pause” mode while waiting to see if resources come back.

If there was a lot of hunger during the American Great Depression, then people who lived during it would have an advantage of a few years (which makes all the difference past 100). And if there was, 15 years later, a war in the middle of Europe and Japan that caused a lot of hunger, then you might see an increase in life span in those places as well.


Why has America stopped producing superold people?

Cheese, primarily. Also french fries.

No gravy?

According to an NPR report* of a study, the restriction has the most effect on boys between the ages of 9 and 12, and the benefits are heritable down to grandchildren. The study was tracking diabetes and heart disease, two things that can shorten your life span. So if your parents and grandparents were well fed, and you’ve always been well fed, you may only get your four score and ten. Or less.
*some time in the last year

I agree with Nava that better record keeping in more places 117 years ago is a big factor. Also, I like the temporary liull theory. The US lost two of its supergenerians within the past two years. If each of the them had lived one extra year, we’d have four of the top five spots.

I don’t think that old people are a good measure of things. Infant mortality and average life expectancy are probably better measuring sticks for the health of a population. And infant mortality, especially in Texas it horrific.

Shalmanese writes:

> Between 1895 - 1900, the US produced 13 out of 23 of the oldest people (56%) but
> between 1900 - 1903 it only produced 5 out of the 19 (26%).

This is blatantly too small a sample. If two less of the 23 had been Americans and four more of the 19 had been Americans, the percentages would have been 11/23 = 48% and 9/19 = 47%, which is nearly equal. That’s far too small a sample. It’s also very unlikely that any significant changes of environment could have happened between 1895 and 1903.

If we look at all 100 on each list, there might be something significant or there might be something wrong with the sampling method. 26 of the 100 oldest living people are Americans, and 45 of the 100 verified oldest people are Americans. That’s still not quite good enough to be a reliable sample. The problem may also be with the way that births are recorded. It may be that births were more reliably recorded in the U.S. in the late nineteenth century, and thus there were people who lived just as old as the Americans in other countries. Is it really true that nobody in the Third World ever lives to 110? Medical methods weren’t that much better in the developed world in the late nineteenth century than they were in the developing world back then. I think that there were just no reliable age records in poorer countries then.

Only if you could produce a sufficiently large sample with comparably reliable birth and death records could you make any reliable statement about the proportion of people living to advanced old ages. I don’t know if any sufficiently reliable records exist for the relevant period (the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) in most of the world. Until you produce such a large, reliable sample, there’s nothing to argue about, not that that will stop people here arguing about it.

running coach, of course no gravy on top of the cheese and french fries. We’re talking about Americans, not Canadians.

It may also be due in part to unverified information. Japan had a huge scandal a few years back. It turned out that the authorities were merely assuming that people were still alive.

That is Canadian Cuisine.