The Grapevine

Women's Longevity, Old-Age Health Could Be Predicted By Mothers' Lifespan

Women whose mothers lived to or beyond the age of 90 were 25 percent more likely to do so themselves without suffering from serious illnesses and disabilities.

Furthermore, this likelihood increased to 38 percent if both parents lived to the age of 90, according to the new study from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine. 

The paper titled "Parental longevity predicts healthy ageing among women" was published in the journal Age and Ageing on Aug. 15.

First author Dr. Aladdin Shadyab and his team of colleagues analyzed data from a national, long-term study involving nearly 22,000 postmenopausal women. 

In their findings, women whose mothers lived till or beyond the age of 90 were found to have a 25 percent increased likelihood of doing so themselves — but that was not all.

These women also aged well by managing to avoid major diseases and disabilities, according to Shadyab, who was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the UCSD School of Medicine.

"It’s not just about the number of candles on the cake," he said. "These women were independent and could do daily activities like bathing, walking, climbing a flight of stairs or participating in hobbies they love, like golf, without limitations."

However, if only the father lived till or beyond the age of 90, the team found no correlated increase in longevity and health of the daughter. But when both parents survived to see their 90s, the chances for their daughter to do so increased by 38 percent.

While there may be specific genes women inherit from their parents, the study could not identify why the father's longevity alone could not make a difference. But this is only one of several factors influencing how long a person lives and how well they age.

Shadyab explained how the women whose parents lived longer had a higher socioeconomic status, meaning they were more educated and had a higher income.

By growing up in a high socioeconomic household, the daughter enjoys access to better health care and is more educated on healthy habits. Having a mother or parents who lived to the age of 90 could also mean their good health habits are likely to be passed along to the daughter.

"More studies are needed to determine how genetic factors interact with behavioral factors like physical activity and socioeconomic status to influence our future aging outcomes," Shadyab added.

Reports from recent years have stated life expectancy among Americans has been falling after decades of increasing. The surge in deaths from drug overdoses has contributed to the decline, according to experts. Obesity has also been highlighted as a significant factor tied to leading causes of death such as heart disease.