Birth Order and Longevity

Picture by jdurham on Morguefile

Picture by jdurham on Morguefile

I thought that I heard that first-born children were longer lived and I was going to write this post in order to rub it in to my two younger brothers. That was before I found out about a study by Drs Leonid Gravlinov and Natalia Gravlinova. They studied US census and social security administration data from those born between 1890 and 1893 and found that among 198 centenarians, those born first were two times more likely than their younger siblings to live to 100.

At first the researchers though it had to do with birth order, but further analysis suggests it is the age of the mother at the child’s birth. Those born when their mothers were younger than 25 were more likely to be alive a century later, regardless of birth order.

I was born to a 27 year-old mother. That means that my brothers and I don’t have that advantage. Yet the study also found that growing up in the western united states, and spending childhood on a farm were also common conditions for those 198 centenarians.

It remains to be seen why a mother’s age at birth seems to correlate with longevity of the child, but I appreciate being born to an older mother. She finished a Bachelors Degree, didn’t rush in to marriage and worked outside the home for a while, to say nothing of the wisdom her age gave her. These days, women often don’t have the option to marry young and put off a career, so it will be interesting to see if there are long-term effects on human longevity.



Gravlinov’s blog with short summary of the study- Childhood Conditions and Exceptional Longevity

Bloggers’s interpretation- Key to long life may be mom’s age at birth

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