November 30, 2006

Firstborn children of women younger than 25 are almost twice as likely to defy the average life span and go on to live beyond 100, according to a new study.

Leonid A. Gavrilov and his colleagues at the University of Chicago's Center for Aging compared genealogy records to death indexes to study the phenomenon, and found:

  • Firstborn children of young mothers were 1.7 times more likely to live to the age of 100.
  • The age of the father did not seem to make a difference on the life span of his progeny.

Although there is no clear answer yet as to why this is the case, scientists have their own theories:

  • Some believe the phenomenon may be related to the physical youthfulness of young mothers and the eggs they produce.
  • Another theory, still unexplored, is that younger women haven't been exposed to as many viruses and diseases as older women, which in turn makes for a healthier uterine environment.

Overall, the study results could have implications for the current generation of women who are pushing back motherhood.  The scientists add that early-life factors may be important clues to age-related illness and longevity.

Source: Jamie Talan, "Young mothers' firstborns live longer," St. Paul Pioneer Press, November 26, 2006.

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