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Late motherhood boosts family lifespan
Date:5/3/2009

SALT LAKE CITY, May 4, 2009 Women who have babies naturally in their 40s or 50s tend to live longer than other women. Now, a new study shows their brothers also live longer, but the brothers' wives do not, suggesting the same genes prolong lifespan and female fertility, and may be more important than social and environmental factors.

"If women in your family give birth at older ages, you may well have a chance of living longer than you would otherwise," says the study's lead author, demographer Ken R. Smith, a professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah. "If you have a female relative who had children after age 45, then there may be some genetic benefit in your family that will enhance your longevity."

For descendants of the Utah and Quebec pioneers studied, "you may be able to look at the ages when your female ancestors gave birth rather than just their longevity in estimating how long you may live," says Smith, whose study will be published online May 4 and in the June 10 print issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences.

The researchers examined high-quality genealogical records from the Utah Population Database at the University of Utah with its records of 1.6 million Utah Mormon pioneers and their descendants. They also used the University of Montreal's Program on Demographic History Research, which has records on 400,000 people who lived in heavily Catholic Quebec between 1608 and 1850.

Specifically, the study involved the records of 11,604 Utah men who were born between 1800 and 1869 and who had at least one sister who lived at least to age 50; and the records of 6,206 Quebec men who lived between 1670 and 1750, and had at least one sister who lived to 50 or older. The key findings:

  • Women who had "late fertility" a birth at age 45 or older were 14 percent to 17 percent less likely to die during any year after age 50 than women who did not deliver a
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Contact: Lee Siegel
leesiegel@ucomm.utah.edu
801-581-8993
University of Utah
Source:Eurekalert  

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