Many long lived races are seen as serene, beautiful, and wise. Yet with long life comes the increased chance to be permanently injured in a life-altering way, either physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Eons of war would wear down the psyche and most probably cause physical scarring and loss of limbs. Deaths of loved ones may cause one to be spiritually scarred. Even in worlds where magic is not only present, but prevalent, I can't see even all scars associated with long lives disappearing. How would a long lived race avoid such scars?

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    $\begingroup$ If age-related illnesses on Earth were cured today, humans might live to be 1000. And they would probably use (or keep using) makeup and plastic surgery to look younger ...You might be physically able to live longer, but the odds of getting hit by a bus increase each year $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2016 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ @hoosierEE they don't. If that were true, then the majority of victims of accidents would be the elderly. If I flip a coin three times, I would still have 50/50 chance to get heads or tails on the fourth try, regardless of the previous results. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Dec 20, 2018 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ you're right. what I meant was more like, if you keep flipping that coin, your odds of getting tails approaches 1 $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2018 at 19:20

8 Answers 8


Why would magic not solve it?

  • They have a technological or magical time travel device which allows them to reverse time a few minutes, to undo the injury by avoiding it in the first place.

  • They have a super-strong precognition sense which allows them to see injury coming, and avoid it - which is how/why they are long lived.

  • In a magic enough world, maybe the longevity is a curse. (i.e. you don't have to explain how it works, the race might not know, it's something in the background of the world - it just happens to them)

Apart from that, what if they have massively different lifestyles and social customs?

  • People get injured from doing things. Maybe they don't tend to do things - e.g. their main time alive is long periods of near-hibernation.

  • Maybe they put such a great emphasis on beauty that they are willing to wrap up in armor (or magical force-fields) and accept strict limits on their activities, to remain beautiful - a very risk averse people. Related: see The Last Human from Dr Who, she was obsessed with her appearance and smooth, moist skin, above almost anything else.

Survivor bias:

  • Maybe the damaged people tend to die (the more accident-prone, more clumsy, suicidal will remove themselves from the population), and the remaining people are the survivors and they live longer, so the population appears undamaged from the outside, only because we don't see it. They could have a tremendous birthrate compared to their apparent population size.


  • They wear clothes and makeup. And cast appearance distorting spells. They are scarred, but without being known for their scarring.


  • Peter F. Hamilton's Void trilogy has long-lived humans who have uploaded themselves into computers, and keep runs of newly grown human clones of their original bodies, and download into them when they want to be flesh and blood. They're still considered the same person. They also choose to remove memories they don't want from their minds as and when they want to.

  • The same Void trilogy also has a technology which holds things in stasis where they can't change or decay. At a physics and force-fields level, rather than a biological sleep. That could be related, e.g. with the hibernation idea. Vernor Vinge's "Across Realtime" books have a similar bubbling effect for stasis - the characters come out alive and unchanged hundreds of years later, but they didn't experience the years in between.

As for psychological scarring - would you expect to interact with the mentally unstable, the deranged, the depressed, the incapable? Or would you expect to interact with the ambassadors, the diplomats, the curious and resiliant and explorers? Are you going visiting their mental hospitals to get a clear picture?(and, I think the mentally damaged immortal is a trope, isn't it?)

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    $\begingroup$ Very good first answer! I for one hope to see more from you. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Nov 25, 2016 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ I think The Last Human in Dr. Who shows some pretty impressive evidence of mental scarring. But maybe that's just me ;) $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2016 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ For an example of longevity as a Curse/magic, consider Anne Rice's vampires. It is not just that they can't grow old, they can't meaningfully change at all. Even cutting their hair can be a problem. $\endgroup$
    – gmatht
    Nov 27, 2016 at 5:07
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    $\begingroup$ Introducing time machines / precognition to deal with cosmetical issues is pretty big though. It also means really different warfare, intrigues, trading, committing and solving crimes, ... $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2016 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ For a more 'mundane' addition, perhaps they simply heal differently than creatures we know do? Our cells know what type of cell to become in order to heal a wound, what if these long-lived creatures' cells are even better? If the body knows with precision how many cells should be where, new cells can be made to replace the old ones on a 1:1 basis. The only visible effect left would be a slight discolouration but even that is solvable if the cells adapt to the pigment of the cells around them. $\endgroup$
    – Cronax
    Nov 28, 2016 at 8:18

The ability to live for extremely long times without death generally implies the ability to heal from most damage. Given a long enough time, even humans can remove most minor scars. Animals like Lizards, Spiders, and Starfish all regrow lost limbs.

The same goes for Psychological trauma, to some extent. Over time, people cope. Some people don't get PTSD from some experiences while others do, and some people cope faster than others, so it's very possible your hypothetical race could be less psychologically frail than modern humans.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree with healing tissue but there is much I disagree with. See the bottom of my answer. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Nov 25, 2016 at 1:32
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    $\begingroup$ If I could accept the answer it would be this. Long life would also imply a long-term youthful look, (hence the "beautiful" part of the question). If the body lasts longer it stands to reason it ages slower. And if you look into why people age, it's quite easy to make the leap from prevention of aging to efficient healing. $\endgroup$
    – komodosp
    Nov 25, 2016 at 9:23
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    $\begingroup$ Each cell division is an opportunity to get cancer. There's a tradeoff: slow regeneration means more deaths from trauma, fast regeneration means more deaths from cancer. You can have a creature that's really hard to break - wounds heal overnight (leaving ugly scars) and all - but it lives fast to fuel that metabolism and also dies young. Or you can have something serene and frail that, if nobody tries to break it, can last indefinitely. $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2016 at 9:10

Longer lives lead to greater ambitions

These races are no longer confined to short lifespans; imagine what Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein or Nicholas Tesla would have accomplished if they were still alive today, and had access to today's technology. If these races also have great thinkers, they will not aspire to "improve the light bulb" in their lifetime - they will land people on Mars or establish the first lunar colony.

Ambitions lead to discovery

These races will inevitably discover new things at a faster rate — the same smart people will have time to accomplish more, and they will accumulate.

Discoveries may maintain youth

If a race has more thinkers, and more discoveries occur every day, surely some people will aspire to fix the scarring, limb loss, etc. that occur. Prosthetics will be improved, medical science and surgery accuracy will grow tenfold, flesh will be 3D-printable on commercial scales, brain damage will be reversed, and death will be a distant memory.

My disagreements with "resilience solves this problem"

  • Resilience does not account for mental trauma. No matter how emotionally resilient or "unlikely to develop PTSD" individuals are, longevity causes inevitability. Eventually, a scarring event will occur, eventually dementia will set in, and eventually mental state will break down. Despite our attempts to extend the human life span through diet and medicine, dementia always finds a way.
    • People won't "cope". We treat mental illness because it isn't something people usually get over - if people could "cope" with mental illness on their own it wouldn't be a problem to humans anyways.
  • Resilience does not account for limbs lost. Scars fade, but limbs do not regrow; extending the human lifespan will not give us this ability - millions of years of evolution MAY give this ability.
  • Tissue regeneration is not the same as cancer negation. Even if a humanoid species naturally evolves regenerative abilities, the ability to create new cells at will does not solve the problem of eventual genetic errors. In fact, creating new cells faster will amplify the problems if a mutation occurs.
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2016 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ +1 but: this answer is flawed because it fundamentally assumes human biology (including neurology/etc), that just lives longer. Not fundamentally different/alien biology which evolved/developed into long living. An extremely long-lived being would have evolved differently in the first place. Of course humans are generally poor at coping (though pointing to mental illness treatment is selection bias: that's not where the durable/coping ones end up) and can't regrow limbs. We don't have the substantially different selection pressures that naturally-evolved extreme longevity comes with. $\endgroup$
    – mtraceur
    Nov 25, 2016 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ If I could select TWO answers to accept, I would have accepted yours as well, but I really wanted an answer that addressed the magic aspect, which the answer I selected did. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2016 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ @JesseCohoon that's fine $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Nov 25, 2016 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ The argument "longevity causes inevitability" works just as well for healing as it does for injury. Humans are very long lived. The first time a pet dies, it is traumatic. The 20th, it's a sad day but it's a commonplace. The first relationship breakup is devastating. The 20th, it's cause for a bowl of icecream. We get used to hardships. $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2016 at 16:14

Complementing on what Landon Powell said... there are 2 methods to heal a wound: either you regenerate the damaged tissue as it were, or you substitute the damaged tissue by fibrous tissue, which is extremely resilient and binds the borders of the wound tightly together. The first method doesn't produce a scar, the other does.

Once fibrosis is established it is irreversible or reversible only after a long time, because you will need to substitute fibrous tissue by normal tissue, which is more difficult than just substituting a gap with normal tissue in the first place.

Now, all you have to do is create a species that uses the first method to heal wounds, but not the scarring method.

This isn't difficult to do. By definition, a long lived species has great healing properties. If not, they would die of cancer very soon. Cancer is derived from mutations on the genetic code. Age promotes these mutations, because the DNA "decays". Also, the more you live, the more divisions your cells undergo and the probability of errors on DNA replication at each cycle acumulares. And the more time passes by, the more likely is your exposure to environmental carcinogens.

So, if your species is so long lived as to survive cancer for decades or centuries, be assured that that species is able to regenerate tissue in an impressive way.

One way you could do this would be to make that species have ultra-sensitive stem cells. As soon as a lesion occurs, those stem cells would divide and diferenciate in a way as to replicate the entire tissue. The damaged tissue could even issue circulating signals so as to recruit stem cells from other bodyparts through blood. This happens in our body, BTW.

As for psychological damage, you could apply the same logic as with physical damage.... being coping analogous to regeneration and neurosis / PTS being analogous to scarring. Just make that species so emotionally resilient as to cope with every psychological damage they may experience.

Edit: To clarify, I'm not saying that PTSD is equal to scarring. Sorry if I wasn't clear. What I meant to say was that there are two ways of healing physical wounds - a healthy way, through regeneration, and a non healthy way, through scarring. Analogously, there are two ways to heal psychological wounds - a healthy way, through coping, and a non healthy way, through PTSD. You could create a species with such biological and psychological physiologies in place as to always go through the healthy route of healing.

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree that psychological damage is analogous to physical damage - people with early-onset mental illness don't simply "repair it over time" or even throughout their lives; this is true even when you extend the lifespan. Mental illness can get worse over time if untreated, but it will not cure itself. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Nov 25, 2016 at 1:33
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    $\begingroup$ Physical scars do disappear over time - at least several of mine have, and others have grown much less obvious. A long-lived species logically would be even better at self-repair than humans. Psychologically, there's a difference between mental illness (which is, by definition, an abnormal condition), and the normal grief from loss of friends that most people experience, and experienced more often in earlier times. You either carry on, or you let your grief consume you, and in the latter case you've removed yourself from the pool of long-lived beings, no? $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Nov 25, 2016 at 4:35
  • $\begingroup$ The analogy meant that there are two ways of handling psychological damage (just like jamesqf said) and the beings should be able to use the most healthy route all the time. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2016 at 7:15
  • $\begingroup$ And I acknowledged that physical scars can be removed over time... but over a longer period of time than "normal" regeneration. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2016 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ If they are extremely long lived, then friends and family will also be extremely long lived, so the long lived beings wouldn't lose relatives more often in their lifetime then we do. And they would have more time to remove physical scars. $\endgroup$
    – gnasher729
    Nov 26, 2016 at 17:21

Perhaps because they can molt?

If this long-lived species molts every ~5 years, then it would be a perfect way of removing anything but extreme scarring. Perhaps severe cases might require multiple molts. The molting could even be a factor in their longevity.

Also, they can regrow limbs while in the molting stage. Cover up the scars by giving them exotic joint structures that mask the appearance of the scarring there. So, a limbless member of this species would just deal with it for a few years and then, right before their next molt, rip off the remainder of the limb they wanted to regenerate. Wait a few weeks and voila! Shiny new arm!

If all members of the species only had visible scarring if it had occurred within the last 5 to 10 years, then there really wouldn't be much scarring to see.

I can't speak too much for psychological traumas, but I see two key possibilities for dealing with those.

  1. The species has incorporated the concept of molting into their culture and there is a strong mental/spiritual component to a molt. Thus, they have an extremely powerful marker every 5 years on which to focus their mental healing, not to mention that the few weeks of motionlessness would give them the opportunity to sort through their problems as they were rejuvenating.
  2. They don't form personal connections the way humans do. (Humans seem incapable of strong interaction without building a connection, either of love or hate.) With no love, there is no heartbreak. With no enemies, there is merely opposition to remove. There would be less opportunity for mental and psychological distress.
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    $\begingroup$ Now I'm picturing Elrond and Galadriel molting. Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Nov 26, 2016 at 17:12

I like most of answers there, but let's look at that from different point of view.

As Landon Powell has said,

The ability to live for extremely long times without death generally implies the ability to heal from most damage.

But alternatively it may imply having enough commons sense (and highly-developed social norms) to cope with or avoid most damage.

Each time a human gets sunburnt the risk of suffering from skin cancer grows a little bit. Solution? Don't get sunburnt. Don't go out on sunny days (with "beautiful pale skin" being a free bonus). Unlike "supernatural regenerative abilities", this explanation scales very well, possibly for thousands or even billions years of lifespan.

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    $\begingroup$ Giving one race a superpower (common sense) kinda tips the balance in their favour. On the other hand, if other races are given some other superpowers as well.. $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2016 at 8:57

A race that doesn't deal with other people directly.

  1. Video phones
  2. Actual avatars that look feel, and for all purposes seem real.

The lifeform would have a full sensor net that would allow them to sense/feel everything to a point. All 5 senses being sent back and forth to the real person/alien. To avoid mental scaring any long term pain would not be sent back to the user.

Avatar 101 dies, 102 roles out and takes their place.

To them life would be very similar to us playing our video games.

Dealing with death. After 50,100, or what years the computer controlling the avatars could probably emulate the person to a point where a person avatar goes on in their place basically forever.


While I agree all above answers I want to add another angle.

Culture and history. Anthropology...

Look at our world, some countries, tribes or other kind of societies are more peaceful or wise than other even though we all have the same brain and body structure.

Thats because some cultures have different priorities in their everyday life, their aproach to educate their children is different. etc...

Maybe they didn't invent money sometime in their history therefore they are unfamiliar the concept of kapitalism and all the war it brings. Maybe they found a more peaceful way to divide limited resources without cousing war. Things never had to become a survival issue so they never needed to end other tribes existance. Therefore they became a peaceful wise society.

Or maybe its total opposite, they had the most biggest and ugliest wars in their history and now they learned their lesson not to do that. Like how todays German schools teaching Hitler part of the history to their students.


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