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Firstborn of young mothers live longer

Updated on November 10, 2008

We've all read or heard about birth order and its effect on our behaviors: the firstborn is the most sensitive, the youngest excels in school, the middle child craves attention, etc.

A recent study offers a different twist: it suggests that the firstborn child of mothers under the age of 25 are almost twice as likely to live longer than the average life span and eventually become a centenarian (someone 100 years or older).

University of Chicago's Center for Aging recently published a study that examined the family histories of 991 American centenarians born from 1875 to 1899. The study, led by Leonid Gavrilov, found that firstborn children of mothers under the age of 25 were 1.7 times as likely to reach their 100th birthday than other children.

More specifically, the study found:

  • firstborn daughters are three times more likely to survive to age 100, compared to later-born daughters of higher birth orders (7 and beyond)
  • firstborn sons are twice more likely to become centenarians compared to sons having birth order between four and six

Comparisons of centenarians with their siblings found that the protective effect of being firstborn is due mostly to the mother's younger age at the child's birth (being born to a mother younger than 25 years).

Why?

Scientists are still not sure, but the age of the mother at birth seems to be the strongest predictor of the child's longevity. This may be due to the fact that her eggs are younger (and therefore generally less likely to have mutations), or it could be that younger mothers are generally healthier, so they provide a healthier environment for growth of the fetus in the womb.

Details of this study will be published in the January 2007 issue of the North American Actuarial Journal.

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    • Drax profile image

      des donnelly 10 years ago from NYC....

      this is fascinating Livelonger, great hub.

    • livelonger profile image
      Author

      Jason Menayan 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you, Drax.

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 10 years ago from Scotland

      this is one of those times when i say out loud to my computer i didnt know that wow.....jimmy

    • gredmondson profile image

      gredmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco, California

      That is interesting, Livelonger.

    • profile image

      Yadira 10 years ago

      Hope that is true, I was born to a mother younger than 25 and I am hoping to live over 100 years old!! :)

    • Chinese Birth Man profile image

      Chinese Birth Man 9 years ago

      I found this article to be very well written and very interesting.

    • profile image

      rudy 8 years ago

      I hope this is true, I'm a first born and male and my mother gave birth to me when she was 18!

    • profile image

      maxine rhodes 7 years ago

      i am the first born my mother 21 went she having

    • profile image

      Breanna 6 years ago

      Yeah, thanks stupid article. Promote teen pregnancy.

      All the women in my family had kids when they were in their 30s. My great aunt lived to 100 and my great grandfather was 92. Longevity is more based on genetics than birth order or having a 20 year old mom.

    • profile image

      Susan 5 years ago

      Or it could be not age per se, but the fact that the mother's body was depleted of nutrients, etc. after that fifth or sixth baby, probably in quick succession. Native peoples had on average 4 children or so I believe and spaced them widely.

    • Melis Ann profile image

      Melis Ann 5 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

      this is fascinating. i love finding out these new little facts. 100+ here we come!

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