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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2013

Department of Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University (MacDonald Campus), Ste Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, Canada
Department of Family and Consumer Studies, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
1Corresponding author. Email:


Studies consistently show that increasing levels of socioeconomic status (SES) and having a familial history of longevity reduce the risk of mortality. But do these two variables interact, such that individuals with lower levels of SES, for example, may experience an attenuated longevity penalty by virtue of having long-lived relatives? This article examines this interaction by analysing survival past age 40 based on data from the Utah Population Database on an extinct cohort of men born from the years 1840 to 1909. Cox proportional hazards regression and logistic regression are used to test for the main and interaction mortality effects of SES and familial excess longevity (FEL), a summary measure of an individual's history of longevity among his or her relatives. This research finds that the mortality hazard rate for men in the top 15th percentile of occupational status decreases more as FEL increases than it does among men in the bottom 15th percentile. In addition, the mortality hazard rate among farmers decreases more as FEL increases than it does for non-farmers. With a strong family history of longevity as a proxy for a genetic predisposition, this research suggests that a gene–environment interaction occurs whereby the benefits of familial excess longevity are more available to those who have occupations with more autonomy and greater economic resources and/or opportunities for physical activity.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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