The researchers explain that your chances of inheriting genes related to longevity are higher if you come from a family of several long-term members.
And that includes aunts and uncles, not just parents.
With the help of databases from the University of Utah and the Dutch province of Zeeland, investigators analyzed the genealogies of nearly 315,000 people from more than 20,000 families since 1740.
"We have observed … the longer your parents live, the less likely you are to die at any point in your life," said lead author of the study, Niels van den Berg, Ph.D. student. molecular epidemiology at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
"For example, the risk of death of a person whose parents are the best" survivors "is 31% lower than that of a person of the same age who does not have such parents" van den Berg said in a press release issued by the University of Utah.
"Best survivors" refers to the oldest 10% of a group of people born during a given period.
"In addition, the risk of death of this person is reduced, even if the parents themselves did not live very old, but their uncles and aunts were among the best survivors," said van den Berg.
"In long-lived families, therefore, parents can pass on the genes of longevity to their children, even if external factors have prevented them from reaching the best survivors," he explained.
The findings reinforce the idea that "there are really genes for longevity to be discovered in humans," van den Berg said.
The study was published online Jan. 7 in the journal Nature Communications.
Researchers have long searched for genes associated with longevity, but these genes are much harder to identify than the genes of the disease, said study co-author Eline Slagboom, professor of epidemiology Molecular at the University of Leiden.
"This research has led us to be much stricter in the selection of people where you need to look for these genes," said Slagboom.
"If you are investigating a random group of people over the age of 100, as exceptional as they are, it is highly likely that many of them do not belong to a family in which longevity is hereditary. "said Slagboom. "Their age is probably a matter of chance, the result of a healthy lifestyle or healthy circumstances, for example during childhood, and therefore not reflected in their DNA."