Inheritance of human longevity in Iceland

Eur J Hum Genet. 2000 Oct;8(10):743-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejhg.5200527.


The idea that human longevity is influenced by genetic factors has recently received strong support from work on other species. On the basis of partial population studies and selected kinships, significant correlations between the ages of parents and offspring have been reported, and some but not all twin studies have confirmed that human longevity is moderately inherited. However, studies based upon a relatively small proportion of a population are susceptible to sampling error and selection bias. Here we report the use of a comprehensive population-based computerised genealogy database to examine multigenerational relationships among those who live to the 95th percentile in Iceland. We have developed a clustering tool which can generate large extended pedigrees connecting individuals from any list using the genealogy database. First degree relatives of those living to the 95th percentile are almost twice as likely to live to the 95th percentile compared with controls. Furthermore, we have developed an algorithm which we have named the Minimum Founder Test (MFT) to examine the degree of relatedness of any population-based list of individuals to estimate whether a trait has a familial component. The data indicate that there is a significant genetic component to longevity. In addition, age-specific death rates are significantly lower in the offspring of long-lived parents compared with controls, especially after age 70.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms
  • Databases as Topic
  • Family
  • Female
  • Founder Effect
  • Humans
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pedigree
  • Registries
  • Risk
  • Survival Analysis