Intergenerational and Genealogical Approaches for the Study of Longevity in the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean Population

Hum Nat. 2008 Mar;19(1):70-86. doi: 10.1007/s12110-008-9031-7.


The mechanisms of longevity have been the subject of investigations for a number of years. Although the role of genetic factors is generally acknowledged, important questions persist regarding the relative impact of environmental exposures, lifestyle characteristics, and genes. The BALSAC population register offers a unique opportunity to study longevity from an intergenerational and genealogical point of view. Individuals from the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean population who died at age 90 or older between 1950 and 1974 were selected from this database (n = 576), along with a control group of individuals born in the same period who died between 50 and 75 years of age. For these subjects and controls, spouses' ages at death and parental ages at death and at their birth were investigated using regression analysis. Genealogical reconstructions were carried out for each individual, and various analyses were performed on both groups. Both fathers' and mothers' mean ages at death were significantly higher among the longer-lived cases than among controls whereas spouses' ages at death and parental ages at birth had no effect. Regression analysis confirmed the positive effect of both fathers' and mothers' age at death. Mean kinship coefficients for the parents' generations displayed significant differences, indicating that kinship was higher among subjects than controls (this effect was stronger among the oldest 10% of the subjects). Frequencies and genetic contributions of ancestors were very similar for the two groups, and none of these ancestors appeared more likely to have introduced genetic variants involved in longevity patterns in this French Canadian population.

Keywords: Familial reconstructions; Genealogies; Inheritance; Intergenerational analysis; Kinship; Longevity; Quebec population.