Biology, Biomedical

Can longevity be inherited?

Genetic traits that influence longevity exist, and can certainly be passed from parents to children. But as a general phenotype, longevity is very complex. All the genes related to longevity will not necessarily pass to the children in a predictable way.

A new study, published this month (November 2018), used data from, to determine whether mate selection could be influenced by longevity. Whether observable characteristics that are linked to longevity, play a role in mate selection. Certainly some traits that indicate health and fertility are more appealing to us in our partners. It is the way our brains work (in general). But which of those traits also indicate longevity? And is longevity the factor that makes two people compatible? Do i choose partners with a similar lifespan?

The answer is a bit complicated. Firstly, longevity sounds simple, but is a trait, controlled by many genes. Those genes interact with each other, and in general it is extremely difficult to say whether longevity is not affected by any gene. But, longevity is associated to environmental factors too. Wealthier people tend to live longer, have less stress etc. And wealthier people tend to find partners as wealthy as them. Therefore their offspring may have an increased lifespan as well. Therefore, this, as the study showed, skews the statistics. In reality if you consider this fact, that assortative mating does occur, longevity isn’t really something that can be inherited.

Genes as well as environmental factors can influence longevity in other ways. But that only amounts to a small percentage. It is therefore not guaranteed that a person with parents that lived longer, will also live longer. Some studies that we have covered before here on, have shown that longevity can be affected by the age of your parents at your birth. You can read more about it here. Basically, the older your parents are at your birth (up to a point), the longer you will live. This though, is just one study, but i would like to see the team of this study take into account the age of parents at birth. This may show that indeed longevity can be passed onto children regardless of assortative mating. Or it may change nothing.

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