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July 30, 1973


JAMA. 1973;225(5):526. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03220320054025

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To the Editor.—  The EDITORIAL regarding longevity in The Journal (224:1289, 1973) gives credence to the highly dubious reports of phenomenal numbers and age (130 years or older) of centenarians in Ecuador and the Soviet Union. The fact is that the reported modern Methuselahs are invariably persons in remote regions and among backward groups for whom no reliable birth records are available, and whose reputed ages have long been discounted by demographers. Thus, in the United States (where there also have been reports of individuals aged 130 years or older—usually ex-slaves), government experts have greatly discounted the estimates of numbers of centenarians and claims of phenomenal ages. For example, in a vital statistics report for 1960, half of the 80 persons listed as having died at ages of 110 or older— and all seven who had allegedly been 120 or older (two "124," one "128")— were nonwhites, although these constituted