The findings could explain the seemingly random and unfair way that death is sometimes dealt out, and raise the intriguing future possibility of being able to extend the natural human lifespan.
“You get people who are vegan, sleep 10 hours a day, have a low-stress job, and still end up dying young,” said Steve Horvath, a biostatistician who led the research at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We’ve shown some people have a faster innate ageing rate.”
A higher biological age, regardless of actual age, was consistently linked to an earlier death, the study found. For the 5% of the population who age fastest, this translated to a roughly 50% greater than average risk of death at any age.
Intriguingly, the biological changes linked to ageing are potentially reversible, raising the prospect of future treatments that could arrest the ageing process and extend the human lifespan.
“The great hope is that we find anti-ageing interventions that would slow your innate ageing rate,” said Horvath. “This is an important milestone to realising this dream.”