How healthy is the healthspan concept?

GeroScience (2018) 40:361–364

Matt Kaeberlein

Department of Pathology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98195, USA e-mail:


The concept of healthspan is relatively new in geroscience research, which seeks to understand the biological mechanisms of aging (Burch et al. 2014; Sierra and Kohanski 2017). Prior to the year 2000, only 14 papers were indexed on PubMed with “healthspan” or “health span” in the title or abstract. By mid-2018, that number has grown to more than 900 (Fig. 1). Notably, several of these use the exact phrases “increases healthspan,” “improves healthspan,” or “extends healthspan,” implying that healthspan is a quantifiable phenotype. In contrast, a recent discussion session at the 2018 Nathan Shock Center Summit and American Aging Association Annual Meeting entitled “How healthy is the healthspan concept?” indicates that there are no accepted or validated metrics for measuring healthspan. How then are claims of increased healthspan so routinely making it into the peer-reviewed literature? A widespread lack of clarity and precision in the use and meaning of this term among both authors and reviewers is evident, and this author will somewhat shamefacedly admit to being among the offenders (Bitto et al. 2016; Leiser et al. 2011; Sutphin et al. 2012; Urfer et al. 2017).

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