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The United States SSA Study (Social Security Administration), also known as the Kestenbaum Study (after Bert Kestenbaum, who directed and reported on the study), was the first large-scale (over 100) study to validate supercentenarians for the purposes of producing demographic data on supercentenarians.

Overview

The initial study covered persons claiming to be age 110 or more in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) records between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 1999 (over 2,700 claims in total). After each potential case was identified, the SSA attempted to verify the date of death using the National Death Index (NDI) to eliminate ghost cases. Afterwards, the Social Security application (SS-5) form was consulted to identify the names of the claimant's parents and locate proof of birth (mainly via the 1880 and 1900 censuses, as birth registration was not universally implemented in the United States until 1933).

Outcome

The study accepted 325 cases as valid, all of which were recognized by the International Database on Longevity and Gerontology Research Group; the oldest of these was Sarah Knauss, while the oldest male was Christian Mortensen.

The validation standards for the SSA study only required three documents, even for the most extreme claims (115 and over). Lucy Hannah, the second-oldest claim accepted by the study, was invalidated in 2020 following the discovery of mid-life evidence contradicting the date of birth stated in her SS-5 and SSDI records, while a number of other cases including Mathew Beard, Addie Bess and James Wiggins are disputed. Nevertheless, the vast majority of SSA study cases (over 97%) withstood subsequent rechecking in the 2010s.

Examples of accepted cases

References

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