Researchers have found an association between older maternal age at birth of the last child and greater odds for surviving to an unusually old age.
Women who gave birth to their last child after the age of 33 years had twice the odds of living to 95 years or older compared with women who had their last child by age 29, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine found.
“Of course this does not mean women should wait to have children at older ages in order to improve their own chances of living longer,” said corresponding author Thomas Perls.
“The age at last childbirth can be a rate of ageing indicator. The natural ability to have a child at an older age likely indicates that a woman’s reproductive system is ageing slowly, and therefore so is the rest of her body,” Perls said.
The study was based on analysis of data from the Long Life Family Study (LLFS) – a biopsychosocial and genetic study of 551 families with many members living to exceptionally old ages.
The study investigators determined the ages at which 462 women had their last child and how old those women lived to be.
The research found that women who had their last child after the age of 33 years had twice the odds of living to 95 years or older compared with women who had their last child by age 29.
The findings also indicate that women may be the driving force behind the evolution of genetic variants that slow ageing and decrease risk for age-related genes, which help people live to extreme old age, researchers said.
“If a woman has those variants, she is able to reproduce and bear children for a longer period of time, increasing her chances of passing down those genes to the next generation,” said Perls, the director of the New England Centenarian Study (NECS), a principal investigator of the LLFS and a professor of medicine at BUSM.