Background: Long-lived individuals are rare and may be selected in part for the genetic factors that promote successful aging. The children of long-lived parents may therefore age more successfully than the children of short-lived parents.
Methods: We used three major cross-sectional population-based surveys to study the association of parental longevity with successful aging in offspring. The measures of aging were hand-grip strength, cognitive performance (Mini Mental State Examination and a cognitive composite score), self-reported diseases, and self-rated health.
Results: For every additional 10 years the parents lived, their children's grip strength increased by 0.32 kg (95% CI = 0.00-0.63), Mini Mental State Examination score by 0.20 points (95% CI = 0.03-0.37), and cognitive composite score by 0.24 points (95% CI = 0.07-0.40). A 10-year increment of parental life was associated with a reduction by approximately 0.20 in the adjusted odds ratio for their children having each of the following conditions: diabetes; hypertension; ischemic heart disease; heart failure; stroke; or fair, poor, or very poor self-rated health. Almost all the effects were seen solely in the cohort of 70+-year-olds, but not among middle-aged or nonagenarian subjects.
Conclusions: Parental life span is positively associated with the children's physical and cognitive functioning and avoidance of some of the common chronic diseases. However, the effects are small and are seen among offspring who are elderly, but not among the middle-aged or the oldest old.