The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago

NORC    NEWS  No. 434 October 26 2001

Inheriting more than the furniture:
the effect of parental genes on daughters' longevity
     Mothers of daughters have to live over 85 years and their fathers only 
     have to live over 75 years to predispose their female offspring to
     live very long lives as well.  Parents who die before those years seem
     to have no affect on the longevity of their female offspring.  This
     study of the familial transmission of human life span from parents to
     daughters was co-authored by Natalia and Leonid Gavrilov, Research
     Associates in NORC's Center on Aging, and published in the prestigious
     Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine (Vol 4, No. 2, Summer 2001,
     Studying daughters of noble families who were born between 1800 and
     1880, Natalia and Leonid Gavrilov show that long-life genes appear to
     influence daughters' whose mothers have lived past 85 and whose
     fathers have lived past 75.   "Women who live above this age [85] are
     fundamentally (presumably genetically) different from other women in
     the sense that their daughters live significantly longer"(p. 121).
     "Daughters born to shorter-lived fathers (died before 75 years) do not
     inherit paternal life span" (p. 122).

     The Gavrilovs chose daughters of royal and noble families to study
     because they were a "privileged social group [that] lived in favorable
     conditions" where "one could expect less influence of adverse social
     factors (poverty, for example)" (p. 116).    Further, "daughters did
     not have a high incidence of violent causes of death due to military
     service" (p. 115).

     The mechanisms that influence longevity are likely to be complex, much
     like those of eye or skin color.  Nevertheless, this research offers
     one more thing for women to thank an aged parent for.

Questions, comments and suggestions should be sent to Julie Antelman at