Reproduction later in life is a marker for longevity in women

Jun 26, 2014

By Science Daily

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.

3 comments on “Reproduction later in life is a marker for longevity in women

  • Hmmm. I would like to know more about the ages of menarche and menopause of the women in the study, since a longer period between the two (early menarche and late menopause) seems to be associated with higher rates of ovarian, breast, and uterine cancers, which don’t bode well for longevity. Are these women with an average age of menarche and menopause who just happen to delay childbearing? And what about the higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities in children born to women over 35 due to aging ova? My maternal grandmother started having children in her early 20s and lived to be 102 years old; my paternal grandmother had only one child in her mid-20s and lived to be 96. Nearly everyone in previous generations made it to at least their mid-90s, and none of them started having children later than their 20s; at least 2 started in their teens.

    Just wondering if age at childbearing is really such a huge factor, or if it’s just “good” genes and the number of children born… as well as lifestyle factors like environment, diet, and breastfeeding.

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