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我们是否真的比祖先更长寿

更新时间:2018-11-4 11:40:32 来源:千亿千亿国际娱乐官网 作者:佚名

Do we really live longer than our ancestors?
我们是否真的比祖先更长寿

Over the last few decades, life expectancy has increased dramatically around the globe. The average person born in 1960, the earliest year the United Nations began keeping global data, could expect to live to 52.5 years of age. Today, the average is 72. In the UK, where records have been kept longer, this trend is even greater. In 1841, a baby girl was expected to live to just 42 years of age, a boy to 40. In 2016, a baby girl could expect to reach 83; a boy, 79.

全球人口预期寿命在过去几十年里有了显著增长。1960年联合国第一次统计人口预期寿命,彼时全球人均寿命为52.5岁。时至今日,这个数字已经飙升到了72岁。而在英国这个统计预期寿命历史源远流长的国家,增长率更为惊人:1841年,女性平均寿命为42年,男性为40年。到了2016年,女性平均寿命有望达到83岁;而男性则大约是79岁。

The natural conclusion is that both the miracles of modern medicine and public health initiatives have helped us live longer than ever before – so much so that we may, in fact, be running out of innovations to extend life further. In September 2018, the Office for National Statistics confirmed that, in the UK at least, life expectancy has stopped increasing. Beyond the UK, these gains are slowing worldwide.

不难推断,人们的寿命增加得益于现代医学的奇迹,以及出色的卫生保健措施——甚至有人说,我们可能用尽了所有能够延长寿命的手段。2018年9月,英国国家统计局表示,国民寿命已经停止增长。而在全球范围内,人类寿命增长也在放缓。

This belief that our species may have reached the peak of longevity is also reinforced by some myths about our ancestors: it’s common belief that ancient Greeks or Romans would have been flabbergasted to see anyone above the age of 50 or 60, for example.

人类平均寿命已经达到顶峰——这一观点甚至能从神话里找到细节佐证:例如古希腊罗马时代,五六十岁的人出街可能会引得路人侧目连连。

In fact, while medical advancements have improved many aspects of healthcare, the assumption that human life span has increased dramatically over centuries or millennia is misleading.

医学的进步确实使得医疗保健在诸多方面得以改善,但这并不足以说明人类寿命在几百年、甚至几千年内急剧增加。

Overall life expectancy, which is the statistic reflected in reports like those above, hasn’t increased so much because we’re living far longer than we used to as a species. It’s increased because more of us, as individuals, are making it that far.

上述报告中提到的总体预期寿命其实并没有增加太多。我们之所以能看到数据的增长,不是因为每一个人都活得久了,而是能活得久的人变多了。

“There is a basic distinction between life expectancy and life span,” says Stanford University historian Walter Scheidel, a leading scholar of ancient Roman demography. “The life span of humans – opposed to life expectancy, which is a statistical construct – hasn’t really changed much at all, as far as I can tell.”

斯坦福大学历史学家谢德尔(Walter Scheidel)是古罗马人口学的领军人物,他说:“预期寿命和实际寿命之间存在着根本的区别。预期寿命是一种统计学概念,实际人口寿命与之不同,实际上也没增加多少。”

Life expectancy is an average. If you have two children, and one dies before their first birthday but the other lives to the age of 70, their average life expectancy is 35.

预期寿命反应的是人口的平均值。如果你有两个孩子,一个孩子刚出生就不幸夭折,另一个孩子活到了70岁,那么他们的平均预期寿命就是35岁。

That’s mathematically correct – and it certainly tells us something about the circumstances in which the children were raised. But it doesn’t give us the full picture. It also becomes especially problematic when looking at eras, or in regions, where there are high levels of infant mortality. Most of human history has been blighted by poor survival rates among children, and that continues in various countries today.

站在数学角度说,这个数据是对的——我们还能从一定程度上分析这对孩子的家庭背景如何。但只看数据毕竟是管中窥豹。尤其在婴儿死亡率高的时期和地区,这个数据就变得十分不可靠了。历史上人类曾饱受婴儿早夭之苦,而不少国家至今仍没解决这个问题。

This averaging-out, however, is why it’s commonly said that ancient Greeks and Romans, for example, lived to just 30 or 35. But was that really the case for people who survived the fragile period of childhood, and did it mean that a 35-year-old was truly considered ‘old’?

单看平均值,人们很容易就会认为古希腊罗马人只能活到30或35岁。但平均值真的能证明,逃过夭折、幸存下来的人只要活过35个年头,就能被归为“长者”了吗?

If one’s thirties were a decrepit old age, ancient writers and politicians don’t seem to have got the message. In the early 7th Century BC, the Greek poet Hesiod wrote that a man should marry “when you are not much less than 30, and not much more”. Meanwhile, ancient Rome’s ‘cursus honorum’ – the sequence of political offices that an ambitious young man would undertake – didn’t even allow a young man to stand for his first office, that of quaestor, until the age of 30 (under Emperor Augustus, this was later lowered to 25; Augustus himself died at 75). To be consul, you had to be 43 – eight years older than the US’s minimum age limit of 35 to hold a presidency.

假如人过三十就已到了风烛残年,那么古代的作家和政治家一定是有豁免权了。公元前7世纪初期,希腊诗人赫西奥德(Hesiod)写道,一个男人的结婚时间“应当在30岁,不多不少”。再者,古罗马时期的政治官晋升体系“荣耀之路(cursus honorum)”规定,年满30岁者才能够成为财务官,也就是体系内的第一个正式职位。(按照奥古斯都皇帝的规定,后来降到了25岁;奥古斯都享年75岁。) 如果要担任体系内的领事一职,则必须要熬到43岁——比竞选美国总统的最低年龄要求整整多了8岁。

In the 1st Century, Pliny devoted an entire chapter of The Natural History to people who lived longest. Among them he lists the consul M Valerius Corvinos (100 years), Cicero’s wife Terentia (103), a woman named Clodia (115 – and who had 15 children along the way), and the actress Lucceia who performed on stage at 100 years old.

公元1世纪,普林尼(Pliny)在写《自然历史》(The Natural History)一书时,用了整整一章描述了当时的寿星。领事科维努斯(M Valerius Corvinos)享年100岁,西塞罗(Cicero)的妻子特伦西娅(Terentia)享年103岁,克罗地亚(Clodia)享年115岁,有15个孩子;而女演员卢卡西亚(Lucceia)到了期颐之年还登台表演。

Then there are tombstone inscriptions and grave epigrams, such as this one for a woman who died in Alexandria in the 3rd Century BC. “She was 80 years old, but able to weave a delicate weft with the shrill shuttle”, the epigram reads admiringly.

各种墓碑铭文和隽语也能够作证这一点。例如,这块墓碑下面埋葬的女人死于公元前3世纪的亚历山大港。她的铭文上刻着“她年过八旬,但能用最尖的梭子编织出最细的纱”,读起来十分让人钦佩。

Not, however, that ageing was any easier then than it is now. “Nature has, in reality, bestowed no greater blessing on man than the shortness of life,” Pliny remarks. “The senses become dull, the limbs torpid, the sight, the hearing, the legs, the teeth, and the organs of digestion, all of them die before us…” He can think of only one person, a musician who lived to 105, who had a pleasantly healthy old age. (Pliny himself reached barely half that; he’s thought to have died from volcanic gases during the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, aged 56).

但这并不足以证明,当时的人们即使老去,依旧能够行动自若。普林尼曾说过:“万物朝生暮死,而上天让人长寿,并不算庇佑。有时人还活着,但知觉已经迟钝,四肢早已麻木,视线、听觉模糊,腿、牙齿、消化器官,都已经早早进入坟墓......”能够安享晚年的,他只认识一个人,那人是个音乐家,活到105岁寿终正寝。(普林尼死于56岁,只活到了别人一半的岁数。有学者认为,他死于维苏威火山爆发时喷射出的火山气体)。

In the ancient world, at least, it seems people certainly were able to live just as long as we do today. But just how common was it?

因此,古代人能活到今天现代人的岁数并不是难事。但是,能活到这个岁数的到底有多少人?

Age of empires

帝国时代

Back in 1994 a study looked at every man entered into the Oxford Classical Dictionary who lived in ancient Greece or Rome. Their ages of death were compared to men listed in the more recent Chambers Biographical Dictionary.

1994年,有人专门开展了一项研究,把《牛津古代词典》中提到的古希腊罗马人,以及《钱伯斯传记词典》里近代人的平均寿命做了一个对比。

Of 397 ancients in total, 99 died violently by murder, suicide or in battle. Of the remaining 298, those born before 100BC lived to a median age of 72 years. Those born after 100BC lived to a median age of 66. (The authors speculate that the prevalence of dangerous lead plumbing may have led to this apparent shortening of life).

两本词典中一共涉及的人数为397人,其中99人死于谋杀、自杀或战争。在剩余的298人里,出生于公元前100年的人,平均年龄达到了72岁;而近代人的平均年龄则只有66岁。(研究者推测,铅工业的盛行可能导致寿命明显缩短。)

The median of those who died between 1850 and 1949? Seventy-one years old – just one year less than their pre-100BC cohort.

1850年至1949年间,寿命的中位数是71岁,比公元前100年出生的人还要少一岁。

Of course, there were some obvious problems with this sample. One is that it was men-only. Another is that all of the men were illustrious enough to be remembered. All we can really take away from this is that privileged, accomplished men have, on average, lived to about the same age throughout history – as long as they weren’t killed first, that is.

当然,数据样本存在明显的问题。 第一,样本里只有男性;第二,记录在案的人都妇孺皆知。 所以研究的结论应该是这样的:在名留青史的王公贵族中,只要是自然死亡,其古今平均年龄几乎没有变化。

Still, says Scheidel, that’s not to be dismissed. “It implies there must have been non-famous people, who were much more numerous, who lived even longer,” he says.

谢尔德并没有全盘推翻这一研究结果。他说:“我们能够推测,一定存在比知名人士更长寿的普通人,人数也更多。”

Not everyone agrees. “There was an enormous difference between the lifestyle of a poor versus an elite Roman,” says Valentina Gazzaniga, a medical historian at Rome’s La Sapienza University. “The conditions of life, access to medical therapies, even just hygiene – these were all certainly better among the elites.”

但也有人持反对意见。加扎尼加(Valentina Gazzaniga)任教于罗马第一大学,是一位医学历史学家。她说:“古代罗马,穷人和精英阶层的生活方式有着巨大差异。生活环境、医疗条件、甚至卫生状况——一定是精英阶层的更好。”

In 2016, Gazzaniga published her research on more than 2,000 ancient Roman skeletons, all working-class people who were buried in common graves. The average age of death was 30, and that wasn’t a mere statistical quirk: a high number of the skeletons were around that age. Many showed the effects of trauma from hard labour, as well as diseases we would associate with later ages, like arthritis.

2016年,加扎尼加在研究2000多具古罗马人的遗骨后,发表了一项科研结果。这些骨架都出土于寻常坟地,主人们生前都属于工人阶级。研究显示,这些人的平均死亡年龄为30岁,不仅如此,大量遗骨的骨龄都在30岁前后。 大量遗骨上有劳动创伤的痕迹,还有如关节炎等现代人会得的“老年病”。

Men might have borne numerous injuries from manual labour or military service. But women – who, it's worth noting, also did hard labour such as working in the fields – hardly got off easy. Throughout history, childbirth, often in poor hygienic conditions, is just one reason why women were at particular risk during their fertile years. Even pregnancy itself was a danger.

男性劳工的伤病大多源于生前的劳役或参军。但值得注意的是,遗骨的分析显示,女性也没能幸免,她们也需要从事大量的体力劳动,如在田间做农活等。纵观历史,由于生产时卫生条件过差,产妇还面临着特殊风险。 而怀孕本身也曾一度威胁女性性命。

“We know, for example, that being pregnant adversely affects your immune system, because you’ve basically got another person growing inside you,” says Jane Humphries, a historian at the University of Oxford. “Then you tend to be susceptible to other diseases. So, for example, tuberculosis interacts with pregnancy in a very threatening way. And tuberculosis was a disease that had higher female than male mortality.”

牛津大学历史学家汉弗里斯(Jane Humphries)说:“我们知道,怀孕的过程基本上是在肚子里养活另外一个人,因此妊娠期的免疫能力会大打折扣,这就加大了产妇的患病风险。因此,肺结核等疾病极大威胁了产妇的健康,患肺结核的女性死亡率远超男性。”

Childbirth was worsened by other factors too. “Women often were fed less than men,” Gazzaniga says. That malnutrition means that young girls often had incomplete development of pelvic bones, which then increased the risk of difficult child labour.

产妇生命安危也受其他因素的威胁。加扎尼加说,“女性的胃口通常更小。”而营养不良会导致盆骨结构发育不全,从而增加了分娩的困难和风险。

“The life expectancy of Roman women actually increased with the decline of fertility,” Gazzaniga says. “The more fertile the population is, the lower the female life expectancy.”

加扎尼加说:“生育率下降后,罗马妇女的平均寿命增加了。女性越是多子,预期寿命就越低。”

Missing people

消失的平民

The difficulty in knowing for sure just how long our average predecessor lived, whether ancient or pre-historic, is the lack of data. When trying to determine average ages of death for ancient Romans, for example, anthropologists often rely on census returns from Roman Egypt. But because these papyri were used to collect taxes, they often under-reported men – as well as left out many babies and women.

由于缺乏数据,无论是古代还是史前的平民百姓,我们都无法得知其寿命。人类学家要确定古罗马人的平均死亡年龄,往往要用到罗马帝国下埃及行省的人口普查数据。埃及人把数据写在莎草纸上,用以征税,因此经常出现漏报男丁的情况,大量妇女儿童也不在普查范围内。

Tombstone inscriptions, left behind in their thousands by the Romans, are another obvious source. But infants were rarely placed in tombs, poor people couldn’t afford them and families who died simultaneously, such as during an epidemic, also were left out.

罗马人拥有成千上万的墓志铭,给获取数据提供了另外一个的途径。但问题是,很少有人给夭折的孩子立碑,穷人则没这个钱,甚至还有全家死于瘟疫,无人收尸的情况。

And even if that weren’t the case, there is another problem with relying on inscriptions.

除此之外,依靠墓志铭统计数据还有另一个问题。

“You need to live in a world where you have a certain amount of documentation where it can even be possible to tell if someone lived to 105 or 110, and that only started quite recently,” Scheidel points out. “If someone actually lived to be 111, that person might not have known.”

谢德尔说:“活在世上,我们需要各种身份文件,这样才能证实一个人的年纪。但过去还没有这种材料。所以,就算当时有人真的活到111岁,那个人自己也不一定清楚。”

As a result, much of what we think we know about ancient Rome’s statistical life expectancy comes from life expectancies in comparable societies. Those tell us that as many as one-third of infants died before the age of one, and half of children before age 10. After that age your chances got significantly better. If you made it to 60, you’d probably live to be 70.

因此,我们对古代罗马人预期寿命的了解,大部分都源于贵族阶级的寿命数据。数据显示,一岁前夭折的新生儿大约占到三分之一;剩下的孩子半数活不过十岁。但十年之后的幸存者,只要活到了60岁,再多活10年基本上不是问题。

Taken altogether, life span in ancient Rome probably wasn’t much different from today. It may have been slightly less “because you don’t have this invasive medicine at end of life that prolongs life a little bit, but not dramatically different”, Scheidel says. “You can have extremely low average life expectancy, because of, say, pregnant women, and children who die, and still have people to live to 80 and 90 at the same time. They are just less numerous at the end of the day because all of this attrition kicks in.”

总而言之,罗马人的寿命和现代人可能没什么差距。 谢德尔说,可能就是稍微短了一点儿。“因为罗马人没有续命药丸,在油尽灯枯的时候帮上点小忙。我们也可以说罗马人平均寿命很短,因为产妇死亡率和新生儿夭折率确实没法回避。但同时,有的罗马人也能够活到八、九十岁。只是由于大批人没熬过去,活到这个年纪的人没现在多。”

Of course, that attrition is not to be sniffed at. Particularly if you were an infant, a woman of childbearing years or a hard labourer, you’d be far better off choosing to live in year 2018 than 18. But that still doesn’t mean our life span is actually getting significantly longer as a species.

熬不过去也是人之常情。2018年的婴儿、育龄妇女和工人,生存条件要比2000年前要好的多得多。活到这个岁数的人多,并不意味着人类在生命极限上有了突破。

On the record

登记在案的百姓

The data gets better later in human history once governments begin to keep careful records of births, marriages and deaths – at first, particularly of nobles.

后来,政府开始登记公民(首先肯定是贵族)的出生、婚姻和死亡状况。数据收集难度也就大大下降了。

Those records show that child mortality remained high. But if a man got to the age of 21 and didn’t die by accident, violence or poison, he could be expected to live almost as long as men today: from 1200 to 1745, 21-year-olds would reach an average age of anywhere between 62 and 70 years – except for the 14th Century, when the bubonic plague cut life expectancy to a paltry 45.

记录中显示的儿童死亡率仍然居高不下。对于一个当时年满21岁的男子来说,只要不出意外(事故致死、暴力致死或被毒杀),那他的寿命几乎和现代人一样:1200年到1745年,活过21岁的人基本上寿命在62到70岁之间——14世纪是一个例外,当时黑死病肆虐,寿命预期一度缩减至45岁。

Did having money or power help? Not always. One analysis of some 115,000 European nobles found that kings lived about six years less than lesser nobles, like knights. Demographic historians have found by looking at county parish registers that in 17th-Century England, life expectancy was longer for villagers than nobles.

有钱有权就能延年益寿吗?也不尽然。有研究分析了11.5万名欧洲贵族的情况,结果发现,国王的平均寿命竟比骑士和贵族少六年。而人口历史学家在查看县教区登记册后发现,在17世纪的英格兰,普通村民的预期寿命甚至比贵族长。

“Aristocratic families in England possessed the means to secure all manner of material benefits and personal services but expectation of life at birth among the aristocracy appears to have lagged behind that of the population as a whole until well into the eighteenth century,” he writes. This was likely because royals tended to prefer to live for most of the year in cities, where they were exposed to more diseases.

研究中写道:“尽管英国的贵族家庭物质条件优渥,又有专人服侍,但他们的寿命预期一直落后于人口平均水平。这个情况一直到十八世纪才得以改变。”这可能是因为王公贵族更倾向于生活在城市里,而城市里疾病肆虐,因此患病的风险更高。

But interestingly, when the revolution came in medicine and public health, it helped elites before the rest of the population. By the late 17th Century, English nobles who made it to 25 went on to live longer than their non-noble counterparts – even as they continued to live in the more risk-ridden cities.

有趣的是,率先享受医学和公共卫生领域革命成果的,往往是精英阶层。17世纪末,英国贵族与平民的平均寿命相差25岁之多——即使贵族往往生活在危机四伏的城市里。

Surely, by the soot-ridden era of Charles Dickens, life was unhealthy and short for nearly everyone? Still no. As researchers Judith Rowbotham, now at the University of Plymouth, and Paul Clayton, of Oxford Brookes University, write, “once the dangerous childhood years were passed… life expectancy in the mid-Victorian period was not markedly different from what it is today”. A five-year-old girl would live to 73; a boy, to 75.

在狄更斯那个时代,烟灰雾霾笼罩了全英国。那么当时是否所有人都疾病缠身、寿命短暂呢?也不尽然。美国普利茅斯大学的研究员罗博瑟姆(Judith Rowbotham)和英国牛津布鲁克斯大学的克莱顿(Paul Clayton)在研究中写道:“一旦度过了危险的童年时代......维多利亚时代中期的人口的预期寿命与如今没有明显差距”。五岁过后,女孩预计能活到73岁; 男孩则为75岁。

Not only are these numbers comparable to our own, they may be even better. Members of today’s working-class (a more accurate comparison) live to around 72 years for men and 76 years for women.

数据显示,当年人口的平均寿命不仅能与今日一较高下,甚至可能略胜一筹。如今,工薪阶层的(这样对比更加精确)男性平均寿命约为72岁,女性约为76岁。

“This relative lack of progress is striking, especially given the many environmental disadvantages during the mid-Victorian era and the state of medical care in an age when modern drugs, screening systems and surgical techniques were self-evidently unavailable,” Rowbotham and Clayton write.

罗博瑟姆和克莱顿的研究显示,“现代人的寿命并没有增加,这个结果着实令人吃惊。特别是考虑到维多利亚中期的医学水平:显然,当时没有发展起现代药学,疾病排查和外科手术也难以实现。”

They argue that if we think we’re living longer than ever today, this is because our records go back to around 1900 – which they call a “misleading baseline”, as it was at a time when nutrition had decreased and when many men started to smoke.

他们说,人们之所以认为寿命有所延长,可能是只把数据追溯到了20世纪——这一时代人们的营养水平下降,又有很多人开始吸烟,数据极具误导性。

Pre-historic people

史前人物

What about if we look in the other direction in time – before any records at all were kept?

那么假如换个角度来看——史前时代的人寿命如何呢?

Although it is obviously difficult to collect this kind of data, anthropologists have tried to substitute by looking at today's hunter-gatherer groups, such as the Ache of Paraguay and Hadza of Tanzania. They found that while the probability of a newborn’s survival to age 15 ranged between 55% for a Hadza boy up to 71% for an Ache boy, once someone survived to that point, they could expect to live until they were between 51 and 58 years old. Data from modern-day foragers, who have no access to medicine or modern food, write Michael Gurven and Cristina Gomes, finds that “while at birth mean life expectancies range from 30 to 37 years of life, women who survive to age 45 can expect to live an additional 20 to 22 years” – in other words, from 65 to 67 years old.

在数据收集上显然有巨大的难度,但人类学家从现存的狩猎-采集部落里找到了切入点,收集了巴拉圭阿切人(Ache)和坦桑尼亚哈扎人(Hadza)的数据作为替代。他们发现,虽然存活至15岁的新生儿比例有所不同(哈扎男子为55%,阿切男子则为71%),但只要熬过这个年纪,两个部落的人都能活到51至58岁。当代部落原住民(modern-day forager)过着远离现代食品药品的生活,在对他们进行研究后,古尔文(Michael Gurven)和戈麦斯(Cristina Gomes)表示:“若以出生日期为基准,这些人的平均寿命为30至37岁;若考虑活到45岁的女性,平均寿命则增加了22至22岁。”也就是说,能活到65至67岁。

Archaeologists Christine Cave and Marc Oxenham of Australian National University have recently found the same. Looking at dental wear on the skeletons of Anglo-Saxons buried about 1,500 years ago, they found that of 174 skeletons, the majority belonged to people who were under 65 – but there also were 16 people who died between 65 and 74 years old and nine who reached at least 75 years of age.

最近,澳洲国立大学的考古学家卡芙(Christine Cave)和奥克斯纳姆(Marc Oxenham)也有类似的发现。通过研究1500年前盎格鲁撒克逊人的牙齿磨损,他们发现,这174具骨架,大多来自于65岁以下的人;65岁到74岁之间的有16人;超过75岁死亡的则有9人。

Our maximum lifespan may not have changed much, if at all. But that’s not to delegitimise the extraordinary advances of the last few decades which have helped so many more people reach that maximum lifespan, and live healthier lives overall.

人类寿命的极限可能没有太大变化,甚至根本没变。这么说,并不是否定了近几十年来医学的卓越进步,它在帮助我们过上健康生活之余,也让许多人达到了最高寿命。

Perhaps that’s why, when asked what past era, if any, she’d prefer to live in, Oxford’s Humphries doesn’t hesitate.

也许这就是为什么,当被问到想穿越去哪个年代时,牛津的汉弗莱斯(Humphries)不假思索地说道:“我哪也不会去的,当下的生活最好。因为就算侥幸能熬到老死,我也讨厌过粗暴野蛮的生活。”

“Definitely today,” she says. “I think women’s lives in the past were pretty nasty and brutish – if not so short.”

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