2

votes

Why Hunter Gatherers don't live long?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created August 06, 2012 at 7:24 PM

I understand that hunter gatherers don't have any modern medical care and probably die from common infections and broken bones, but considering the fact that they live in natural less polluted environments, eat nutritious foods, get plenty of exercise and don't get stressed - shouldn't they be living well in their seventies?

Here is a list of countries where people live the longest:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy has a

*EDITED: I guess, I submitted the wrong link so I am not sure the question is read the way I want it to be read. Let me explain: every country has an age pyramid that looks like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:South_Korea_Age_Pyramid_(English).png I have never ever came across any data that would indicate that any hunter-gatherer would live past 60. In fact, I could not find any for 50 either. I am reading tons of articles on hunters and gatherers and hence is my question. I am not really interested in Paleo people since there is no way of knowing how long they have lived - we do not have enough records to show. I am interested in MODERN HUNTERS AND GATHERERS. Also, if you think some of them lived till well in their 70s, could you please provide any sources for your information - I was looking hard and I was not able to obtain such data.*

Bonus Question: what is the healthiest nation/nations on earth at this moment?

Thanks!

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 09, 2012
at 05:33 PM

@ CD - Thank you one more time. A very interesting article.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 08, 2012
at 05:44 AM

I sure will - it is very interesting!

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 08, 2012
at 05:43 AM

Erik - I guess my question is not worded correctly. I do not really care for the shape of it - it was just an example, and I used South Korea - but I could use any other country as well. My question was WHY DON'T HUNTERS GATHERERS live well in their 60s and they have so few old people. Somebody has already provided the answer - they die from infectious diseases. Now I understand. But thanks for your explanation.

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on August 07, 2012
at 11:10 PM

Nonsense. HG's covered vast tracts of land - not on a daily basis. obviously, but over weeks, huge distances .And ate and drank, as a result, foods with hugely different (and probably complementary) minerals too. And as for your comments about the eastern US, I have no reply to make - I have never studied the area. But over much of Europe, Africa, etc - humans have left their mark in what must have been superb areas for foraging or hunting food. Some of them ARE the steppes and prairies of the world. But I do agree with one of your points - rivers and oceans would be good too.

Ff5e86ffb129939355ab6f3c8e85ba1c

(155)

on August 07, 2012
at 10:02 PM

I never asked but they were usually there for something quite small, the types that hate to complain, but all positive and enjoying life. Interesting conversation do keep it going. How long people live is a definition of their well being in some respects, MM

26e2364f7966432bbf8acfe930583674

(460)

on August 07, 2012
at 09:42 PM

The shape of South Korea's population pyramid is not reflective of every country. Until 100 years ago every population was pyramidal, the bulge shape of South Korea's and most developed countries is due to the countries' passage through the demographic transition and an artifact of the time period between the decline in infant/child mortality due to medical advances and sanitation and the offsetting decline in childbearing. This is exemplified in developed countries by the decline in childbearing about a decade following WWII. Population pyramids then move to a more barrel/rectangular shape.

26e2364f7966432bbf8acfe930583674

(460)

on August 07, 2012
at 09:41 PM

The shape of South Korea's population pyramid is not reflective of every country. Until 100 years ago every population was pyramidal, the bulge shape of South Korea's and most developed countries is due to the countries' passage through the demographic transition and an artifact of the time period between the decline in infant/child mortality due to medical advances and sanitation and the offsetting decline in childbearing. This is exemplified in developed countries by the boom and decline in childbearing following WWII. Population pyramids then move to a more barrel/rectangular shape.

26e2364f7966432bbf8acfe930583674

(460)

on August 07, 2012
at 09:20 PM

Short version: if you'd looked at the link idoru posted you would not have this question. People provide links in responding to substantive questions for a reason.

26e2364f7966432bbf8acfe930583674

(460)

on August 07, 2012
at 09:05 PM

Couldn't post an image here, see below

Dd74e6399ae697d8603dc9aa74fbafae

(695)

on August 07, 2012
at 07:58 PM

You're very welcome! I think I just stumbled upon it randomly. If you haven't already, you should read the whole site, lots of interesting stuff. Here's the index: http://flare8.net/health/doku.php/ Another site I highly recommend is this one: http://www.beyondveg.com/ If you dig deep, you'll find a lot of interesting info, such as this: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-8b.shtml#hg health Enjoy!

4e6baf393fd5f339ae5a92ffbeadc884

(305)

on August 07, 2012
at 07:43 PM

@Mark, my point is the mean (i.e. average) is not the correct tool to address the question of lifespans when comparing societies. You need to dig deeper into the data to look at specific causes of death - and then you will find that people are not romanticising the HG lifestyle when they say it was not simply nasty, brutish and short. It was different; with relatively high mortality rates at certain life stages and relatively low mortality rates at other life stages. Can we learn from the low mortality rates? Of course we can - that's why we are at PaleoHacks isn't it?

68294383ced9a0eafc16133aa80d1905

(5795)

on August 07, 2012
at 07:03 PM

My general answer, without doing further research would be acute injuries and/or subsequent infection. To a great extent, these things are more avoidable and definitely more treatable today.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 06:07 PM

I have just finished reading this. AMAZING!!! What kind of website is this? Where did you find it? Can you find more like that? THANKS!!!

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:24 PM

Hunting and gathering on foot allows about a 5 mile radius. Certainly there had to be some nomadism, but it would have been to points of seasonal food abundance.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:20 PM

The Eastern US is now reforesting. 100 years ago it was prime farm land. 100 years before that it was uninhabited, and largely unvisited by humans. The same goes for the steppes and prairies of the world that are currently farmed. There would have been some incidental human traffic, some subsistence hunting, but the points of ancient settlement were still near the rivers or oceans where food and water were plentiful.

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:07 PM

Exactly what I mean - the best sites ARE prime land. I can't imagine what sort of prime land would be inhospitable to humans. And I'm sure they were alive with meat sources and plentiful supplies of fruit and veg, when in season. And fish, near rivers or the coast. Also, plants and animals which were living on nutrient rich and well mineralised soils , with no modern pollutants to cause problems.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:06 PM

Thanks. But somebody already provided an answer I was looking for.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:05 PM

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. What do they die from after 60 years of age? Mostly infectious disease? THANK YOU ONCE MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:03 PM

Interesting....

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:02 PM

OMG - what did those people eat??? If I were you, I would question them to death (they were already in ER, so they would not care).

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:01 PM

Yes, but at least your outdoor pets die happier. And they are smarter (according to research). BUT WHAT DO THOSE HUNTER GATHERERS die from?

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 04:59 PM

You are right, and I agree. I just want to know - what do they die from? And why so early? I doubt all of them die violent deaths.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 04:58 PM

Thank you CD. Do you know what those HG die from? What is the major cause of death?

0a9ad4e577fe24a6b8aafa1dd7a50c79

(5150)

on August 07, 2012
at 03:44 PM

Thhq, I remember watching this documentary a few years ago about obesity. There was this segment in the documentary about the effect obesity has on your bones (not a good one obviously.) However, the study on bone health was on chickens. They put chickens on this sort of vibrating table (it's as funny as it sounds) and they found that the vibration caused the chicken's bones to grow back. Something about the movement increased production/upkeep of whatever minerals comprise the bone. Bones are weird like that.

2e5dc29c61f97d335ffb990508424719

on August 07, 2012
at 03:38 PM

Just from speaking to anthropologists. Most who survived childhood lived into their 40's or even 50's with some living longer based on the bones at death. It is what they tell me. The lack of neolithic diseases is commonly known. The "life is tough" part speculation on my part but fits the pattern

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 07, 2012
at 01:17 PM

Historically H-G's live on the best sites, typically where cities stand now. The so-called prime land was inhospitable, empty of humans.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 07, 2012
at 01:08 PM

I've thought about this and got some information reading about early Neolithic bone wear at Catalhoyuk. Evidence of a lot of carrying and squatting. The Paleo admonition to "lift heavy things" is a good start but doesn't go far enough. We should be carrying auroch haunches or waterskins 10 miles a day. In modern terms carry a heavy pack or child all the time. Not sure this will increase longevity, or decrease it to that of a worn-out hunter-gatherer.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on August 07, 2012
at 12:57 PM

If you remove modern medicine and sanitation from the equation, longevity will drop. These are the main factors that allow for current populations to age as they currently do (even compared to just 100 years ago!).

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 07, 2012
at 12:37 PM

VB, check out this study: http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/faculty/gurven/papers/GurvenKaplan2007pdr.pdf . Of folks who hit age 15, the percentage of hunter-gatherers who make it to age 45 is higher than the percentage of forager-horticulturalists who make it to age 45, but not by much – 64% to 61%. Acculturated hunter-gatherers excel here; 79% of their 15 year-olds make it to age 45. From age 45, the mean number of expected remaining years of life is 20.7, 19.8, and 24.6 for hunter-gatherers, forager-horticulturalists, and acculturated hunter-gatherers, respectively.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 07, 2012
at 11:49 AM

Mark, I agree completely. it's very likely that people in the paleolithic lived as long as anyone else up to 1920-1940 era. I've also seen studies that show that life expectancy of someone in the Paleolithic who lived to at least 15 was in the low 60s (I can't find the link right now). Which was not seen again until the Roman Empire then it dipped down and crossed the 60 line in 1945. This would suggest that the Paleolithic was a dangerous place for children, but adults flourished.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 07, 2012
at 11:39 AM

Tony, that's how it works. Anthropologist look for length of the bones, the epiphysis fusion, dental eruptions, bone density, bone pores, etc. These characteristics are compared to other skeletal remains of the same species during the same time typically within the margin of error or about +- 800 years. There is no comparison to modern humans for age identification, only for understanding of potential evolutionary changes.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 08:16 AM

Judging on both my grandmas who were very heavy SAD eaters (could not be SADDER), people could live in their 90s.

887a9c6c0ee243584548f02d45c439a6

(415)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:38 AM

@VB I don't think people dying at 85 in 2002 were typical SAD eaters. Fron what I've read, longevity will probably go down for today's kids. The other factor was already mentioned. Put those HGs to environment as safe as ours, give them our medicine and you'll see how long they'll live.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:22 AM

True, according to charts, SAD countries have the longest life spans.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:21 AM

Tony, again, I would LOVE to see any record of any hunter-gatherer from ANY TRIBE that would live well in their 60s or 70s. I have searched for it for a long time and cannot find any. If they only live till 40, what do they die from?

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:20 AM

Again, I am interested in modern or at least recorded HG tribes, not the bones of Paleo people. But thank you for your answer.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:19 AM

My argument - I would like to see ANY RECORD or any source that would indicate that any hunter-gatherer lived over 50 years old. If there are none, what do they die from? There must be some information out there.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:16 AM

Erik, I could not find any records of HG living past their 50s in modern days. If you have any, please send it my way. I am interested.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:15 AM

@Jamie - not interested in Paleo man, only modern well-documented HG tribes.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:15 AM

@Happy Now - disregard the list. Just read some articles about how long modern HG live - I could not find any indication of living past 50.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 04:57 AM

Mark, I am more interested in hunters and gatherers that are alive and well now. They do not live long.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on August 07, 2012
at 01:06 AM

^ this is the main reason why life expentancy for paleo man was low - lots of infant mortality (mainly), and then disease, and then violent death.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on August 07, 2012
at 12:08 AM

Does the paper correct for accidents, violent deaths and communicable diseases? All of them are a fraction in modern times compared to hunter-gatherer societies. In other words, if hunter-gatherers lived in a modern society, it is highly likely their life expectancy would raise dramatically.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on August 06, 2012
at 09:11 PM

Modern sanitation and medicine became the standard in developed nations at that point. Life for the majority of human history has been hard and short. Only the various elites lived lives of luxuries.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on August 06, 2012
at 09:09 PM

I don't understand your argument. You are stating that if you adjust for the lack of modern medicine, sanitation, access to plentiful food, and other modern conveniences that they would have similar longevity as of now? Then they wouldn't be living HG lifestyles. All articles I have seen state the average age of a HG population to be late teens early 20's. 30 would have been old.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on August 06, 2012
at 09:04 PM

"Such high survival rates almost surely had never occurred before in human history. Agriculture and pastoralism have been practiced for only about 10,000 years, and most extensively in the past 5,000 years." "The purpose of this article is to assess the evolved human mortality profile and particularly the pattern of senescent mortality change with age." Within the first page of the cited paper, the premise that our ancestors' longevity is comparable to ours is dismissed. Sorry for those wanting to romanticize cavemen, life was hard and short for them.

A9007c998e3b924deebbe9ebb98d4db6

(340)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:50 PM

This, of course, does not address modern hunter-gatherers. But I expect there are few if any left that have not been adversely affected by modern development. And those that haven't likely also have not been able to be studied to date either.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:32 PM

I have been reading about the tribes and I am yet to find the tribe where HG live beyond 50. If you have any sources of HG longevity, would you please list them?

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:30 PM

I have never heard of any HG person living past 50. Any sources of them reaching 70s?

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:29 PM

Thanks for your answer. But the graph shows that SAD people live longer than HG?

4e6baf393fd5f339ae5a92ffbeadc884

(305)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:12 PM

Thanks for the paper, I look forward to reading it!

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 06, 2012
at 07:46 PM

It looked like infant mortality rates were not excluded from that list, so the numbers may be skewed downward in countries without access to health care. It is my understanding that once someone makes it to adulthood, barring something like an HIV pandemic in their country, and having reasonable access to healthcare for accidents, the numbers sort of even out.

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16 Answers

best answer

4
Dd74e6399ae697d8603dc9aa74fbafae

(695)

on August 07, 2012
at 08:32 AM

Take a look at this site: http://flare8.net/health/doku.php/healthy_societies

some excerpts from the article:

In modern hunter-gatherers !Kung 58): 39% die before age 10 25% die will die between 10 and 60 36% die after 60. So of those making it to age 10, 59% will die after 60 years of age.

Tokelau: 79% childhood deaths due to infectious disease. Birth problems account for 20% infant deaths. 50+% of all deaths due to infectious disease. Accidents and violence account for 25% all deaths. Cancer and cardiovascular disease are rare causes of death 35).

Upon reaching 15, Tsimane could expect to live until 58. Those reaching 45 could expect to live until 66. Those reaching age 65 live an average 9 additional years

Some other modern hunter gatherers 59): 60% chance of surviving till 15. Expected age of death at 15 is 54.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:05 PM

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. What do they die from after 60 years of age? Mostly infectious disease? THANK YOU ONCE MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dd74e6399ae697d8603dc9aa74fbafae

(695)

on August 07, 2012
at 07:58 PM

You're very welcome! I think I just stumbled upon it randomly. If you haven't already, you should read the whole site, lots of interesting stuff. Here's the index: http://flare8.net/health/doku.php/ Another site I highly recommend is this one: http://www.beyondveg.com/ If you dig deep, you'll find a lot of interesting info, such as this: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-8b.shtml#hg health Enjoy!

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 06:07 PM

I have just finished reading this. AMAZING!!! What kind of website is this? Where did you find it? Can you find more like that? THANKS!!!

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 08, 2012
at 05:44 AM

I sure will - it is very interesting!

6
81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:11 PM

I think you are underestimating the importance of modern medicine and sanitation as it relates to human longevity. Things that we think of as simple and mundane would have been lethal to our ancestors. Broken bones and minor wounds (infection would have been one of the more common causes of death) were a death sentence to our ancestors. Also consider that the young and elderly would have been the first to die when resources (food, water) become scarce. They are much more vulnerable to prolonged periods of starvation and dehydration. This caused the majority population of our ancestors to be made up of adults in their prime (like most animal populations). Diminished physical capacity begins in our late 20's early 30's. The reason the elderly were held in such high regard in 'primitive' cultures is because so few lived to become elderly. Human beings as a population are far outliving our 'design' in modern civilization. You combine the advantages of modern civilization with a proper diet and you have people living into their hundreds and mobile.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 04:57 AM

Mark, I am more interested in hunters and gatherers that are alive and well now. They do not live long.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on August 07, 2012
at 12:57 PM

If you remove modern medicine and sanitation from the equation, longevity will drop. These are the main factors that allow for current populations to age as they currently do (even compared to just 100 years ago!).

4
4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on August 07, 2012
at 06:43 AM

I think that the question is based on a false premise in the first case.

MODERN hg's are not living in prime land masses.

Historically, ALL land was inhabited by hunter gatherers, who would have had access to any food sources they chose to hunt and gather in.

As agricultural societies "took" the land they need to farm, so HGs were progressively marginalised. Think USA, Africa, Australia etc And of course the whole of Europe, where HGs were long since not just marginalised, but extinguished.

So you are comparing modern HGs scratching a subsistence from the periphery to try to extrapolate a life span for historical HGs who had access to prime land, live stock, food , fish etc.

I don't think it will work!

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:24 PM

Hunting and gathering on foot allows about a 5 mile radius. Certainly there had to be some nomadism, but it would have been to points of seasonal food abundance.

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:07 PM

Exactly what I mean - the best sites ARE prime land. I can't imagine what sort of prime land would be inhospitable to humans. And I'm sure they were alive with meat sources and plentiful supplies of fruit and veg, when in season. And fish, near rivers or the coast. Also, plants and animals which were living on nutrient rich and well mineralised soils , with no modern pollutants to cause problems.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:20 PM

The Eastern US is now reforesting. 100 years ago it was prime farm land. 100 years before that it was uninhabited, and largely unvisited by humans. The same goes for the steppes and prairies of the world that are currently farmed. There would have been some incidental human traffic, some subsistence hunting, but the points of ancient settlement were still near the rivers or oceans where food and water were plentiful.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 07, 2012
at 01:17 PM

Historically H-G's live on the best sites, typically where cities stand now. The so-called prime land was inhospitable, empty of humans.

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on August 07, 2012
at 11:10 PM

Nonsense. HG's covered vast tracts of land - not on a daily basis. obviously, but over weeks, huge distances .And ate and drank, as a result, foods with hugely different (and probably complementary) minerals too. And as for your comments about the eastern US, I have no reply to make - I have never studied the area. But over much of Europe, Africa, etc - humans have left their mark in what must have been superb areas for foraging or hunting food. Some of them ARE the steppes and prairies of the world. But I do agree with one of your points - rivers and oceans would be good too.

4
26e2364f7966432bbf8acfe930583674

(460)

on August 06, 2012
at 09:25 PM

Life expectancy is an arithmetic property rather than something that is illustrative of underlying population dynamics. It is simply the mean of the life span of all people born into a population.

If there are two people, one of whom dies days after childbirth and one of whom dies at 80 years old, they will affect the population life expectancy in the same manner as if they had both lived to 40 years old. In this manner, infant and childhood mortality are quite consequential for population life expectancy and mask longevity among those who survive childhood.

Most of the gains in life expectancy in the past two centuries have been by virtue of marked improvements in public health, medicine, and sanitation. These advances have translated to fewer deaths during childbirth, infancy, and childhood as these are the periods of life during which people are most susceptible to communicable disease, and during which death more markedly affects the life expectancy metric.

It is very notable how effective simple health interventions in early life are. Abstracted from the HIV/AIDS decimated countries, life expectancies are roughly double what the were a century ago in countries that many westerners would characterize as lacking good public health or health services.

26e2364f7966432bbf8acfe930583674

(460)

on August 07, 2012
at 09:05 PM

Couldn't post an image here, see below

26e2364f7966432bbf8acfe930583674

(460)

on August 07, 2012
at 09:20 PM

Short version: if you'd looked at the link idoru posted you would not have this question. People provide links in responding to substantive questions for a reason.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:16 AM

Erik, I could not find any records of HG living past their 50s in modern days. If you have any, please send it my way. I am interested.

3
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:55 PM

Life expectancy in the US in 1900 was early 40s, world wide it was in the mid to lower 30s.

Longevity was not something that only the hunter/ gathers dealt with. This was a major problem until 1940, then suddenly life expectancy shot up.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on August 06, 2012
at 09:11 PM

Modern sanitation and medicine became the standard in developed nations at that point. Life for the majority of human history has been hard and short. Only the various elites lived lives of luxuries.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 07, 2012
at 11:49 AM

Mark, I agree completely. it's very likely that people in the paleolithic lived as long as anyone else up to 1920-1940 era. I've also seen studies that show that life expectancy of someone in the Paleolithic who lived to at least 15 was in the low 60s (I can't find the link right now). Which was not seen again until the Roman Empire then it dipped down and crossed the 60 line in 1945. This would suggest that the Paleolithic was a dangerous place for children, but adults flourished.

3
2e5dc29c61f97d335ffb990508424719

on August 06, 2012
at 08:11 PM

Some did live into their 70's and beyond. Life was tough. No fire, you are cold, no food, you starve. You need to look at what DIDN'T kill them. -diabetes -obesity -hypertension -immune disorders -cancer (some) Last time I checked, statistically deaths are running at one per person. We all die. It is about trying to maximize your "healthy time" on the planet. Emulating the macro-nutrient profile to what our paleolithic ancestors ate is one puzzle piece in this equation.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:32 PM

I have been reading about the tribes and I am yet to find the tribe where HG live beyond 50. If you have any sources of HG longevity, would you please list them?

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:06 PM

Thanks. But somebody already provided an answer I was looking for.

2e5dc29c61f97d335ffb990508424719

on August 07, 2012
at 03:38 PM

Just from speaking to anthropologists. Most who survived childhood lived into their 40's or even 50's with some living longer based on the bones at death. It is what they tell me. The lack of neolithic diseases is commonly known. The "life is tough" part speculation on my part but fits the pattern

3
887a9c6c0ee243584548f02d45c439a6

(415)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:07 PM

They live longer, mean is misleading (for reasons already mentioned by others). See for example this:

http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/faculty/gurven/papers/GurvenKaplan2007pdr.pdf

887a9c6c0ee243584548f02d45c439a6

(415)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:38 AM

@VB I don't think people dying at 85 in 2002 were typical SAD eaters. Fron what I've read, longevity will probably go down for today's kids. The other factor was already mentioned. Put those HGs to environment as safe as ours, give them our medicine and you'll see how long they'll live.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on August 06, 2012
at 09:04 PM

"Such high survival rates almost surely had never occurred before in human history. Agriculture and pastoralism have been practiced for only about 10,000 years, and most extensively in the past 5,000 years." "The purpose of this article is to assess the evolved human mortality profile and particularly the pattern of senescent mortality change with age." Within the first page of the cited paper, the premise that our ancestors' longevity is comparable to ours is dismissed. Sorry for those wanting to romanticize cavemen, life was hard and short for them.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 08:16 AM

Judging on both my grandmas who were very heavy SAD eaters (could not be SADDER), people could live in their 90s.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:29 PM

Thanks for your answer. But the graph shows that SAD people live longer than HG?

4e6baf393fd5f339ae5a92ffbeadc884

(305)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:12 PM

Thanks for the paper, I look forward to reading it!

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on August 07, 2012
at 12:08 AM

Does the paper correct for accidents, violent deaths and communicable diseases? All of them are a fraction in modern times compared to hunter-gatherer societies. In other words, if hunter-gatherers lived in a modern society, it is highly likely their life expectancy would raise dramatically.

3
4e6baf393fd5f339ae5a92ffbeadc884

on August 06, 2012
at 07:54 PM

Why do you state the HG's don't live into their seventies? Average life span is very misleading as it takes into account high rates of child mortality, death caused by childbirth as well as the broken bones/trauma injuries you mention in your post.

If you take out the high death rate situations listed above, I see no evidence to point to HG's not reaching 70's. All without modern medicine, which is pretty impressive.

And, the list of countries is completely irrelevant to your question as there are no hunter-gather nations left as far as I am aware.

4e6baf393fd5f339ae5a92ffbeadc884

(305)

on August 07, 2012
at 07:43 PM

@Mark, my point is the mean (i.e. average) is not the correct tool to address the question of lifespans when comparing societies. You need to dig deeper into the data to look at specific causes of death - and then you will find that people are not romanticising the HG lifestyle when they say it was not simply nasty, brutish and short. It was different; with relatively high mortality rates at certain life stages and relatively low mortality rates at other life stages. Can we learn from the low mortality rates? Of course we can - that's why we are at PaleoHacks isn't it?

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on August 06, 2012
at 09:09 PM

I don't understand your argument. You are stating that if you adjust for the lack of modern medicine, sanitation, access to plentiful food, and other modern conveniences that they would have similar longevity as of now? Then they wouldn't be living HG lifestyles. All articles I have seen state the average age of a HG population to be late teens early 20's. 30 would have been old.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:30 PM

I have never heard of any HG person living past 50. Any sources of them reaching 70s?

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:19 AM

My argument - I would like to see ANY RECORD or any source that would indicate that any hunter-gatherer lived over 50 years old. If there are none, what do they die from? There must be some information out there.

3
F5be4be097edc85690c12d67ee1a27c0

on August 06, 2012
at 07:50 PM

I don't think any of that would be reasonable to assume somebody should have a long life. I'm glad to see my peeps (Japan) at the top of this list... the Japanese live in a highly polluted area, are very stressed due to high demand of proper etiquette, high education, hard work, crowded living, stress on physical appearance, etc. so they defy all odds. I wub them.

IMO, I don't see a difference between hunter/gatherers and say, pilgrims first entering America. Everybody has a lower life expectancy when they are truly exposed to nature everyday forcefully. Look at the most technologically advanced countries (protection against nature) for the highest life expectancy.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:22 AM

True, according to charts, SAD countries have the longest life spans.

2
Ff5e86ffb129939355ab6f3c8e85ba1c

on August 07, 2012
at 12:29 PM

Pure anecdote; while I was working in the A&E (ER) dept in the UK it was not unusual for someone to come in aged 70-90 with no history of having any medical treatment. I understand that the diet would have been different however are bodies are capable quite capable of this.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:02 PM

OMG - what did those people eat??? If I were you, I would question them to death (they were already in ER, so they would not care).

Ff5e86ffb129939355ab6f3c8e85ba1c

(155)

on August 07, 2012
at 10:02 PM

I never asked but they were usually there for something quite small, the types that hate to complain, but all positive and enjoying life. Interesting conversation do keep it going. How long people live is a definition of their well being in some respects, MM

2
0a9ad4e577fe24a6b8aafa1dd7a50c79

on August 06, 2012
at 11:30 PM

If I'm not mistaken, the average life expectancy of HG man is acquired from studying the bones.

Surely HGs had better looking bones, even in old age than SAD eaters. I assume this might skew a lot of the results towards a "younger" age bias of the bones studies.

It's often said that teenage anorexics have the bones of someone twice their age. The opposite is possible as well.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 07, 2012
at 01:08 PM

I've thought about this and got some information reading about early Neolithic bone wear at Catalhoyuk. Evidence of a lot of carrying and squatting. The Paleo admonition to "lift heavy things" is a good start but doesn't go far enough. We should be carrying auroch haunches or waterskins 10 miles a day. In modern terms carry a heavy pack or child all the time. Not sure this will increase longevity, or decrease it to that of a worn-out hunter-gatherer.

0a9ad4e577fe24a6b8aafa1dd7a50c79

(5150)

on August 07, 2012
at 03:44 PM

Thhq, I remember watching this documentary a few years ago about obesity. There was this segment in the documentary about the effect obesity has on your bones (not a good one obviously.) However, the study on bone health was on chickens. They put chickens on this sort of vibrating table (it's as funny as it sounds) and they found that the vibration caused the chicken's bones to grow back. Something about the movement increased production/upkeep of whatever minerals comprise the bone. Bones are weird like that.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:20 AM

Again, I am interested in modern or at least recorded HG tribes, not the bones of Paleo people. But thank you for your answer.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:03 PM

Interesting....

2
A9007c998e3b924deebbe9ebb98d4db6

(340)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:47 PM

My understanding is that it is a common misconception that ancestral HG people lived a lot shorter lives that we did. Much of the longevity estimation is based on the condition of the bones that have been discovered. Their bones are compared to the bones in similar condition of people in modern society. This suggests that the oldest-age HG bones discovered were equivalent to those of middle-age civilized people today.

However, a more informed analysis factors in the better diet and exercise of HG people, which would give them healthier, stronger, and less deteriorated bones than people of a similar age today. Based on this, one could conclude that ancient HG people lived much longer than is commonly assumed and had more robust health longer in life than do most people of today.

If I run across the source of this info, I'll pass it on.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:21 AM

Tony, again, I would LOVE to see any record of any hunter-gatherer from ANY TRIBE that would live well in their 60s or 70s. I have searched for it for a long time and cannot find any. If they only live till 40, what do they die from?

A9007c998e3b924deebbe9ebb98d4db6

(340)

on August 06, 2012
at 08:50 PM

This, of course, does not address modern hunter-gatherers. But I expect there are few if any left that have not been adversely affected by modern development. And those that haven't likely also have not been able to be studied to date either.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 07, 2012
at 11:39 AM

Tony, that's how it works. Anthropologist look for length of the bones, the epiphysis fusion, dental eruptions, bone density, bone pores, etc. These characteristics are compared to other skeletal remains of the same species during the same time typically within the margin of error or about +- 800 years. There is no comparison to modern humans for age identification, only for understanding of potential evolutionary changes.

1
68294383ced9a0eafc16133aa80d1905

(5795)

on August 07, 2012
at 01:04 PM

The key to this whole Paleo thing, IMO, is to take the positives that contributed to longevity in their lives and apply those to many of the positives that contribute to our longevity today.

Obviously there were many things that negated longevity in their lives and mimicking those lifestyle aspects because they are "Paleo" is foolish.

The best of both worlds mindset is going to lead to as optimal of a life we can live today...that's my outlook.

68294383ced9a0eafc16133aa80d1905

(5795)

on August 07, 2012
at 07:03 PM

My general answer, without doing further research would be acute injuries and/or subsequent infection. To a great extent, these things are more avoidable and definitely more treatable today.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 04:59 PM

You are right, and I agree. I just want to know - what do they die from? And why so early? I doubt all of them die violent deaths.

1
Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 07, 2012
at 12:59 PM

I don't think longevity is a priority when daily survival is the major concern.

Hunter gatherers are not organized for any more than that. I've had outdoor pets and indoor pets in my lifetime. Outdoor pets don't live as long. The cumulative effects of exposure - fights, unsanitary food and water, exposure to the elements, etc. - wear them out at half the age of pampered pets.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 07, 2012
at 05:01 PM

Yes, but at least your outdoor pets die happier. And they are smarter (according to research). BUT WHAT DO THOSE HUNTER GATHERERS die from?

0
26e2364f7966432bbf8acfe930583674

(460)

on August 07, 2012
at 09:18 PM

With regard to the role of health knowledge & services, and sanitation as primary drivers of the life expectancy metric see the following:

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1113569

Of the three leading causes of death in 1900 (when life expectancy was about 47 years): influenza & pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal infections tuberculosis and gastrointestinal infections contribute an inconsequential number to total annual deaths in the US and influenza & pneumonia have very little contribution either in 2010 (when life expectancy is about 78 years) and the chronic (as opposed to communicable) diseases of cancer and heart disease, both of which you can live with for a long time before dying, are the primary causes of death.

This is perfectly representative of the epidemiological transition and shift in timing of death from youth, when communicable diseases tend to kill people, to later in life, when chronic diseases then to kill people. As discussed previously, the hazard ratio for mortality in infancy and childhood are hugely consequential for life expectancy.

0
26e2364f7966432bbf8acfe930583674

(460)

on August 07, 2012
at 09:04 PM

Pretty clearly HGs do live into their 70s and beyond. I've inserted below the table that was in an article linked in a comment previous to mine and multiple since.

irdoru provided a link to the gold current standard for data on the life-course trajectories of pre-agricultural people. The table I've inserted below appears in the paper on the page after the graph that was inserted in the abovementioned post.

With regard to your inquiry, almost all of the data was gathered in the last 50 years, data for the Hiwi, Hazda, !Kung and Tsimane data were gathered within the last 15 years.

why-hunter-gatherers-don't-live-long?

Gurven, M. & H. Kaplan. 2007. Population and Development Review, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 321-365

http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/faculty/gurven/papers/GurvenKaplan2007pdr.pdf

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