The study, published by peer-reviewed academic journal Biodemography and Social Biology, explored whether people living to 100 years and beyond differ in physical characteristics, when they are young, compared to peers who lived a shorter amount of time.
In their research, researchers first found 240 confirmed centenarians, born in 1887, who all had World War I civil draft registration cards registered with the United States government. Since these draft registration cards recounted physical characteristics of these men when they were age 30, they were matched with the draft registration cards of shorter-lived men who had the same year of birth, race, and place of draft registration.
This then allowed researchers to study the factors for each individual – including number of children, physical body types and occupation – that made some men more likely to live to the age of 100 than others. The conclusions were groundbreaking.
Dr Leonid Gavrilov, co-author of the study and Principal Investigator of the NIH research project at NORC at the University of Chicago, said of the findings: "Our study found that males with "stout" body build (being in the heaviest 15 percent of the population at age 30) have much smaller chances to live to 100 years, compared to men with medium and slender body build. Obesity prevents longevity."
While the link of obesity to shorter life is unsurprising, other conclusions from the research show interesting and surprising trends among long-lived males.
"On the other hand, being a farmer, and having a large number of children (4 or more) at age 30, increases the chances of exceptional longevity for males," Dr Gavrilov went on to say.
Why study old draft registration cards, or try to find out what makes a person likely to live longer at all? The scientist explained: "People with exceptional longevity may represent particularly interesting outcomes of successful, yet unintended experiments of Nature on delaying ageing and preventing age-related diseases. We can learn a lot from analysis of such natural life-extension experiments. Therefore, studies on centenarians could become a goldmine for unravelling the secrets of human longevity."
Arabela Velasco of PensionCalculator.org, a leading UK financial planning and pension information website, said of the new research: "We’re all secretly planning to live to 100, but how many of us are truly prepared for the costs of such a long retirement? As scientists get closer to unlocking the secrets of longevity, our responsibility to save for the future and financially protect our longer lifespans grows as well."
Full text of the peer-reviewed article published in Biodemography and Social Biology:
"Biodemography of Exceptional Longevity: Early-Life and Mid-Life Predictors of Human Longevity"
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