Gompertzian Mortality Curves Are a Natural Consequence of Biological Damage and Repair Mechanisms

Lloyd P. Goldwasser, University of California, Berkeley

Exponentially increasing mortality rates during adulthood are a common feature of human populations as well as many species of animals. Most explanations of this phenomenon invoke particular distributions of frailty or rates of aging. A simple mathematical model that makes no such assumptions shows that exponential increases in mortality rates can arise directly from known processes of biological damage and repair. The cellular and biochemical systems that repair damage are themselves produced and regulated by the very systems that they repair, so damage is eventually self-catalyzing. The result is an exponential increase in damage as the individual ages, and, by extension, an exponential increase in mortality due to that damage. It is possible that mortality plateaus may arise at relatively high levels of damage as new damage overlaps existing damage rather than affecting intact components.

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Presented in Session 87: International/Comparative Research on Mortality