Lifespan and maternal age

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: September 20th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Youth marches inevitably toward old age, though the journey is longer for some of us than for others. Now a new study suggests that people born to younger mothers are more likely to live to be a hundred.

In fact, more people are reaching the centennial mark than ever before, and University of Chicago researchers have found that a mother’s age when her children are born has a lot to do with the length of their lifespan.

A child born to a mother who is twenty-four-years-old or younger has twice the chance of living to one-hundred than a child born to an older mother. Researchers say a father’s age is less important.

The team used data from the U-S Census, the Social Security Administration database and genealogical records to identify nearly two-hundred centenarians born in the U-S from 1890 to 1893. They reconstructed the family histories of these individuals to identify possible predictors of longevity.

Previous research showed first-born daughters are more likely to live to a ripe old age than their siblings. The new study suggests that the young age of the mother, not birth order, is actually what’s significant to longevity. They add that other factors also are associated with long life, including living out West and spending part of one’s childhood on a farm.

As career demands pressure more women to postpone childbearing, the issue may have important social implications. Not to mention an influence on how many candles are someday on that birthday cake.