Most supercentenarians are frauds, new research suggests

Jeanne Calment, the world's oldest person - according to Guinness World Records, at least.
Jeanne Calment, the world's oldest person - according to Guinness World Records, at least.

A researcher claims he's figured out the real secret to long life - poor record-keeping.

Areas which have a high number of supercentenarians - people living to 110 or older - also have a lack of good historical record-keeping, says Saul Justin Newman of Australian National University.

The chances are they're not actually living longer, he says - they're just lying or mistaken about their age.

Dr Newman thought it was strange that many parts of the world with high numbers of centenarians - 'blue zones', as they're known - also have low life expectancy rates, low income and high crime rates, the opposite of what you'd expect. Among them are Sardinia in Italy and Okinawa, Japan.

His research, published online and yet to be peer-reviewed, found that supercentenarians in the US used to be common too - until states introduced mandatory birth certificates.

"The state-specific introduction of birth certificates is associated with a 69-82 percent fall in the number of supercentenarian records," his paper reads.

Instead, he found a correlation between "remarkable age attainment" and "indicators of error and fraud".

"Relative poverty and short lifespan constitute unexpected predictors of centenarian and supercentenarian status, and support a primary role of fraud and error in generating remarkable human age records."

It's estimated only one in 1000 people who make it to 100 will live to be 110, so it only takes a few of them to falsify their age or get it wrong to seriously skew the numbers.

Dr Newman was thrilled with the attention his research has been getting, noting it's now the second-most viewed paper on open access prepring journal BioRxiv, behind only Tesla boss Elon Musk's proposal for a computer-brain interface.

"I hope the wonderful twitter-verse people can help me beat Elon," he wrote on the social media site. "I mean, he's great, but who needs a human-brain interface anyway?"

A report earlier this year suggested Jeanne Calment, the longest-lived person in history according to Guinness World Records, was actually her 99-year-old daughter Yvonne. She reportedly did it to avoid paying inheritance tax.