Update on 16/09/2019
A new article published in the journal The Journal of Gerontology by Jean-Marie Robine, research director at Inserm and his Swiss and Danish colleagues, reaffirms that Jeanne Calment’s identity has not been usurped and that she died at the age 122 years old. In order to show this, they have:
– provided several mathematical models that conclude that there is a significant probability that Jeanne Calment reached the age of 122. “Thus, every 10 million centenarians, a person can reach 123 years of age.”writter the authors. A probability that is certainly small, but that is far from making Ms. Calment a statistical impossibility.
– identified the original elements that were used for the initial validation of Jeanne Calment’s identity and collected additional documentation. Cross-checking these numerous archives of various natures has shown that there was neither tax fraud nor falsification of Jeanne Calment’s identity.
In addition, Inserm collected the documents resulting from the investigation on supercentenarians conducted by Jean-Marie Robine and Michel Allard during the 1990s. These archives include written and audio documentation from Jeanne Calment, which is currently being archived and digitized at Inserm.
In the wake of the fraud allegations surrounding the age of Jeanne Calment which have received widespread mass media and social media coverage, Inserm as a leading life sciences and health research organization wishes to make clear the following:
– In 1998, following two years of research, Doctor Michel Allard from Fondation Ipsen and Jean-Marie Robine, demographer and public health researcher at Inserm published a letter in the journal Science, entitled The Oldest Human. Their findings, based on numerous civil and religious documents, supported the validity of Jeanne Calment’s death aged 122. Between them, the researchers have published several hundreds of articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
– The contribution of the Inserm researchers involved studying the quality of the documents available in the Arles archives (personal records, parish registries, census lists and school/military documents, etc.) and analyzing them with particular focus on the contribution of genetic factors to Jeanne Calment’s longevity. In doing so they revealed an extraordinary concentration of long-lived ancestors of Jeanne Calment and her brother François (Science 1998).
– The Fondation Ipsen study, A la recherche du secret des centenaires, for which Jean-Marie Robine had developed a specific protocol with Michel Allard, was the first to require age verification for all centenarian studies. This pioneering survey of the health and quality of life of the very elderly put an end to the use of convenience samples, ushering in the most modern epidemiological methods and questioning in the study of very old age. Since then, surveys concerning centenarians and nonagenarians endeavor to be as representative as possible. The Danish, Italian and Japanese surveys can be cited in this respect. The ongoing Five Country Oldest-Old People (5_COOP) study, also coordinated by Inserm, is based on a standardized survey conducted in the same way in Denmark, France, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland. It shows that not all centenarians are frail, suffering from dementia, or dependent and it illustrates the immense variation in health states at that age (Herr et al. 2018).
– Inserm proposes joining forces with the town of Arles in the immediate future to scan and make the genetic hypotheses and documents used to validate the lifespan of Jeanne Calment accessible to the community (Open Data).
– The researchers have 15 hours of recordings of Jeanne Calment, in the form of some thirty interviews conducted between 1992 and 1995. Before allowing public access, it must be ensured that they do not or no longer contain any information of a private or medical nature.
– Continuing the Open Science approach, an international database on supercentenarians (over 110) whose ages have been validated in 15 countries (including France) went online in 2010, marking the publication of the book Supercentenarians (www.supercentenarians.org). This database will in the near future be updated and extended to include those between the ages of 105 and 109 with the publication of a second book in the same collection. The data for the French section of this database is supplied by researchers from Inserm and INED.
– It is not within the remit of Inserm to support any requests for exhumation which do not fall within its field of competence.
– In scientific research, the burden of proof lies with those who propose new hypotheses or claim to have uncovered new findings. It is not for Inserm researchers to underpin the theory of the Russian objectors. Their arguments, should they have any, must be submitted to a peer-reviewed scientific journal which is responsible for validating the robustness of the research in question.
Robine J.M., Allard M. The oldest human. Science. 1998. Mar 20;279(5358):1831.
Robine J.M., Allard M. Jeanne Calment: validation of the duration of her life. In: Jeune B, Vaupel JW, editors. Validation of exceptional longevity. Odense monographs on population Aging; 6. Odense: Odense University Press; 1999. p. 145-72.
Herr M., Jeune B., Fors S., Andersen-Ranberg K., Ankri J., Arai Y., et al. Frailty and Associated Factors among Centenarians in the 5-COOP Countries. Gerontology. 2018. Jul 20:1-11.
Maier H., Gampe J., Jeune B., Robine J.M., Vaupel J.W., editors. Supercentenarians. Berlin: Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag; 2010.