The husband and wife scientific team of Dr. Leonid
Gavrilov and Dr. Natalia Gavrilova see an association
between longevity and month of birth.
There’s something to say about being a “fall
guy” (or gal) and it’s something positive. That
is, if you were born during autumn, you stand
a better chance of reaching the century mark
than do folks born during other times of the
year, note researchers supported by the National
Institute on Aging.
Currently, your chances of placing 100 candles
on your birthday cake, while still slight, are
better than ever before. Figures from the U.S.
Census Bureau show that the number of centenarians
has doubled in the past 20 years. In
the meantime, according to the 2010 census,
more than 53,000 men and women were age
100 or older, nearly a 6 percent increase from
the year 2000.
For the current investigation, scientists examined
the relationship between the month of
birth and the odds of surviving to 100 by delving
into the records of more than 1,500 men and
women born between 1880 and 1895 and comparing
them to the birth records of their shorterlived
siblings raised in the same household. Similar
spousal effects were also looked at.
“What we came away with from our research
is that if you were born during a fall month,
this had a very positive impact on survival to
advanced age—in other words, how long you
would live,” explained Dr. Leonid Gavrilov, a
gerontologist with the Center on Aging at the
University of Chicago. “For example, we found
that the odds of becoming a centenarian were
about 40 percent higher for persons born in
September, October or November than for
someone born in March.”
Gavrilov conducted the study along with his wife
Dr. Natalia Gavrilova of the same Chicago institution.
Results were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Aging Research.
The noteworthy findings notwithstanding, the obvious question is “Why did
babies born in autumn outlive others?” While the findings are robust, the reasons
are not as obvious. Gavrilov suggested that a number of factors may be
“Maternal or child nutrition, pediatric infections, climate/sun exposures and
other seasonal impacts not yet identified could explain in part or whole the lifespan
differentials,” he said, adding that “it may well be that seasonal infections
in early life create long-lasting damage to human health. It’s an interesting theory
that we hope to follow up on,” Gavrilov added.
Besides the practical aspects of their findings, the scientists note that the results
may be useful for public health policymakers who argue that further investments
in child health may have not only immediate positive consequences, but
also critical, long-lasting implications for the health of future seniors. In addition,
the information may be useful for researchers in their attempts to understand
the mechanisms of human longevity.
A more recent protocol undertaken by the Chicago scientists follows similar
avenues of research on birth and longevity. In particular, the Gavrilov team
has shown that individuals born to younger mothers (25 years old or less) have
about an 80 percent increased likelihood of living to 100 years of age, compared
to their siblings born to older mothers.
For more on their research, visit www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/