The Link between Parental and Offspring Longevity

Claus C. Pörtner, Seattle University
Edwin Wong, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Studies of adult mortality typically examine the impact of individual characteristics, but ignores that the characteristics of people closely linked to individuals also influence mortality risk. This paper examines the effect of parental longevity on survival outcomes of adult offspring using survey data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) between 1992 and 2008 and a competing risk model that controls for correlation between individual death and survey non-response. There is strong evidence that individuals with longer lived parents exhibit lower mortality risk. Furthermore, we find that behavior variables explain between 30 and 40 percent of the total effect of parental age on offspring longevity. Even after controlling for health and behavioral variables of the offspring, parental age of death has a substantial impact on the survival of the adult offspring.

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Presented in Poster Session 4