Childhood Exposure to Infections and Exceptional Longevity

Leonid A. Gavrilov, University of Chicago
Natalia S. Gavrilova, University of Chicago

Earlier studies suggest that childhood exposure to infections may increase adult risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, little is known about effects of early-life exposure to infections on exceptional longevity. This study attempts to fill this gap by comparing American centenarians born in 1890-1891 with their shorter-lived peers who died at age 65 years. Data were taken from computerized family histories, which were then linked to 1900 and 1930 U.S. censuses. Infectious load was measured as household child mortality index (CMI) in 1900 using information on children ever born and survived by mothers of studied individuals. It was found that CMI in families of centenarians is not significantly different from CMI in control families suggesting that infectious load during childhood does not influence mortality after age 65. The results of this study suggest that parental longevity and mid-life characteristics rather than childhood infections play an important role in exceptional longevity.

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Presented in Poster Session 3: Health of Women, Children, and Families