It found the onset of illness came decades later in life for centenarians than  those not blessed with longiity.

The findings in a study of nearly 3,000 people contradict the notion that the older the people get, the sicker they become and the greater the cost of taking care of them.

"Most people struggle with an ever-increasing burden of disease and disability as they age," said study leader Nir Barzilai, Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

"But we found that those who live exceptionally long lives have the additional benefit of shorter periods of illness - sometimes just weeks or months - before death," Barzilai said.

The study appeared in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The data for the study was collected from two studies with participants from North America, England, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Analysis revealed a consistent pattern of delayed onset of illness in the centenarian groups compared to their respective comparison groups.

The findings suggest that discoveries made in one group of centenarians can be generalised to diverse populations.

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