Reproduction later in life is a marker for longevity in women

Women who are able to naturally have children later in life tend to live longer and the genetic variants that allow them to do so might also facilitate exceptionally long life spans.

A Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) study published in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, says women who are able to have children after the age of 33 have a greater chance of living longer than women who had their last child before the age of 30.

“Of course this does not mean women should wait to have children at older ages in order to improve their own chances of living longer,” explained corresponding author Thomas Perls, MD, MPH. “The age at last childbirth can be a rate of aging indicator. The natural ability to have a child at an older age likely indicates that a woman’s reproductive system is aging slowly, and therefore so is the rest of her body.”

The study was based on analysis of data from the Long Life Family Study (LLFS) - a biopsychosocial and genetic study of 551 families with many members living to exceptionally old ages. Boston Medical Center, the teaching hospital affiliate of BUSM, is one of four study centers that make up the LLFS. The study investigators determined the ages at which 462 women had their last child and how old those women lived to be. The research found that women who had their last child after the age of 33 years had twice the odds of living to 95 years or older compared with women who had their last child by age 29.

The findings also indicate that women may be the driving force behind the evolution of genetic variants that slow aging and decrease risk for age-related genes, which help people live to extreme old age.

“If a woman has those variants, she is able to reproduce and bear children for a longer period of time, increasing her chances of passing down those genes to the next generation,” said Perls, the director of the New England Centenarian Study (NECS), a principal investigator of the LLFS and a professor of medicine at BUSM. “This possibility may be a clue as to why 85 percent of women live to 100 or more years while only 15 percent of men do.”

Does Late Reproduction Extend the Life Span? Findings from European Royalty
Statistical associations between late reproduction and female longevity led to speculations that a late birth increases a mother’s life span. The database used here includes all descendants of King George I of England (1660–1727) and his wife, Sophie Dorothea (1666–1726), born in the royal dynasties in Europe up to 1939 (n=1,672). In the era of British world supremacy, these descendants formed the uppermost layer of the European aristocracy, occupying all royal thrones from 1850 onward. Novel in this study is the use of pedigree information. In pairs of ever-married full sisters (brothers), both surviving to 45 (50) years, both having at least one child, the study examines whether the sibling with the first - or last - child born later in life also lived a longer life. This design controls for genetics, socioeconomic status, parity, social support, child mortality, birth cohort, and various environmental factors. In the 157 pairs of sisters and 191 pairs of brothers, later reproduction did not extend the life span.

Ulrich Mueller
Article first published online: 30 SEP 2004
DOI: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2004.00023.x

Reproduction later in life is a marker for longevity in women The results of this study are consistent with other findings on the relationship between maternal age at birth of last child and exceptional longevity. Previously, the NECS found that women who gave birth to a child after the age of 40 were four times more likely to live to 100 than women who had their last child at a younger age.

The results of Perls’ study show the importance of future research on the genetic influences of reproductive fitness because they may also impact a person’s rate of aging and susceptibility to age-related diseases, according to the researchers.

Late reproduction would enlarge longevity of sons and grandsons
Scientists state that the parents’ and grandparents’descendance who reproduced in more advanced ages would benefit their longevity.

The parents and grandparents’ descendance who repoduced in more advanced ages could enjoy from the benefits of genetic that would enlarge their longevity, according to new scientific studies.

Researchers from the Northwestern University (North Illinois) estimate this is a genetic process representing an evolutive adaptation which would cause the telomerase enlargement, the strucuture found in the chromosomes ends and responsbile for ageing.

“If your father and grandfather were able to live and reproduce in late ages, this would indicate you could live in a similar environment,” said Dan Eisenberg, in charge of the study.

Several previous studies had already shown a relation among shorter telomerase which turn out to be in diseases caused by age and longer telomerase that slow down ageing, scientists recall who published their works at the Annals of the American Academy of Sciences dated June 11-15. 

Therefore, men who delay their reproduction transmit to their sons and grandsons longer telomerase which could make them live longer and would allow them to continue reproducing at more advanced ages, they said.

Scientists measured the length of the DNA telomerase right from the blood samples of 1.779 young adults and mothers in Philippines and it also detailed the ages of parents and grandparents.

Results showed the size of telomerase increased not only in function according to the father’s age but also the one of the grandfather.




Also contributing to this study were researchers from Boston University School of Public Health, Mailman School of Public Health, Washington University and the University of Pennsylvania.

The Long Life Family Study is funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of Health.


Gina DiGravio

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Boston University Medical Center

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