Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-wg55d Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-28T08:32:43.878Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false


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 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Abbott, M. H., Abbey, H., Bolling, D. R., Murphy, E. A. & Opitz, J. M. (1978) The familial component in longevity – a study of offspring of nonagenarians: III. Intrafamilial studies. American Journal of Medical Genetics 2(2), 105120.Google Scholar
Adler, N. E., Boyce, T., Chesney, M. A., Cohen, S., Folkman, S., Kahn, R. L. & Leonard, S. (1994) Socioeconomic status and health: the challenge of the gradient. American Psychologist 49(1), 1524.Google Scholar
Beaver, K. M. (2011) Genetic influences on being processed through the criminal justice system: results from a sample of adoptees. Biological Psychiatry 69(3), 282287.Google Scholar
Beck, A. T. (2008) The evolution of the cognitive model of depression and its neurobiological correlates. American Journal of Psychiatry 165(8), 969977.Google Scholar
Beeton, M. & Pearson, K. (1901) On the inheritance of the duration of life, and on the intensity of natural selection in man. Biometrika 1(1), 5089.Google Scholar
Beeton, M., Yule, G. U. & Pearson, K. (1900) Data for the problem of evolution in man. V. On the correlation between duration of life and the number of offspring. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 67(435441), 159.Google Scholar
Belsky, J. & Pluess, M. (2009) Beyond diathesis stress: differential susceptibility to environmental influences. Psychological Bulletin 135(6), 885.Google Scholar
Black, D., Townsend, P. & Davidson, N. (1982) Inequalities in Health: The Black report. Penguin.Google Scholar
Bocquet-Appel, J. P. & Jakobi, L. (1990) Familial transmission of longevity. Annals of Human Biology 17(2), 8195.Google Scholar
Bourne, K. L. & Walker, G. M. Jr (1991) The differential effect of mothers' education on mortality of boys and girls in India. Population Studies 45(2), 203219.Google Scholar
Cadoret, R. J., Yates, W. R., Ed, T., Woodworth, G. & Stewart, M. A. (1995) Genetic–environmental interaction in the genesis of aggressivity and conduct disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry 52(11), 916924.Google Scholar
Carmelli, D., Swan, G. E. & Cardon, L. R. (1995) Genetic mediation in the relationship of education to cognitive function in older people. Psychology and Aging 10(1), 4853.Google Scholar
Comstock, G. W. & Tonascia, J. A. (1977) Education and mortality in Washington County, Maryland. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 18(1), 5461.Google Scholar
Courtet, P., Gottesman, I., Jollant, F. & Gould, T. (2011) The neuroscience of suicidal behaviors: what can we expect from endophenotype strategies. Translational Psychiatry 1(5), e7.Google Scholar
Cutrona, C. E., Cadoret, R. J., Suhr, J. A., Richards, C. C., Troughton, E., Schutte, K. & Woodworth, G. (1994) Interpersonal variables in the prediction of alcoholism among adoptees: evidence for gene–environment interactions. Comprehensive Psychiatry 35(3), 171179.Google Scholar
El Hage, W., Powell, J., Surguladze, al. (2009) Vulnerability to depression: what is the role of stress genes in gene x environment interaction? Psychological Medicine 39(9), 14071411.Google Scholar
Ettner, S. L. (1996) New evidence on the relationship between income and health. Journal of Health Economics 15(1), 6785.Google Scholar
Hakko, H., Wahlberg, K.-E., Tienari, P. & Räsänen, S. (2011) Genetic vulnerability and premature death in schizophrenia spectrum disorders: a 28-year follow-up of adoptees in the Finnish Adoptive Family Study of Schizophrenia. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry 65(4), 259265.Google Scholar
Hemingway, H., Shipley, M., Brunner, E., Britton, A., Malik, M. & Marmot, M. (2005) Does autonomic function link social position to coronary risk? The Whitehall II Study. Circulation 111(23), 30713077.Google Scholar
Hicks, B. M., South, S. C., DiRago, A. C., Iacono, W. G. & McGue, M. (2009) Environmental adversity and increasing genetic risk for externalizing disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry 66(6), 640648.Google Scholar
Kawachi, I. & Kennedy, B. P. (1999) Income inequality and health: pathways and mechanisms. Health Service Research 34(1 Part 2), 215.Google Scholar
Kendler, K. S., Kessler, R. C., Walters, E. E., MacLean, C., Neale, M. C., Heath, A. C. & Eaves, L. J. (1995) Stressful life events, genetic liability, and onset of an episode of major depression in women. American Journal of Psychiatry 152(6), 833842.Google Scholar
Kerber, R. A., O'Brien, E., Smith, K. R. & Cawthon, R. M. (2001) Familial excess longevity in Utah genealogies. Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 56(3), B130.Google Scholar
Kunst, A. E. & Mackenbach, J. P. (1994) The size of mortality differences associated with educational level in nine industrialized countries. American Journal of Public Health 84(6), 932.Google Scholar
Lobao, L. & Meyer, K. (2001) The great agricultural transition: crisis, change, and social consequences of twentieth century US farming. Annual Review of Sociology 27, 103124.Google Scholar
Lynch, J. W., Smith, G. D., Kaplan, G. A. & House, J. S. (2000) Income inequality and mortality: importance to health of individual income, psychosocial environment, or material conditions. BMJ 320(7243), 1200.Google Scholar
McGue, M., Vaupel, J. W., Holm, N. & Harvald, B. (1993) Longevity is moderately heritable in a sample of Danish twins born 1870–1880. Journal of Gerontology 48(6), B237.Google Scholar
Malyutina, S., Bobak, M., Simonova, G., Gafarov, V., Nikitin, Y. & Marmot, M. (2004) Education, marital status, and total and cardiovascular mortality in Novosibirsk, Russia: a prospective cohort study. Annals of Epidemiology 14(4), 244249.Google Scholar
Marmot, M. G. (2002) The influence of income on health: views of an epidemiologist. Health Affairs 21(2), 31.Google Scholar
Marmot, M. G., Adelstein, A. M., Robinson, N. & Rose, G. A. (1978) Changing social-class distribution of heart disease. British Medical Journal 2(6145), 1109.Google Scholar
Marmot, M. G., Bosma, H., Hemingway, H., Brunner, E. & Stansfeld, S. (1997) Contribution of job control and other risk factors to social variations in coronary heart disease incidence. The Lancet 350(9073), 235239.Google Scholar
Marmot, M. G., Rose, G., Shipley, M. & Hamilton, P. J. (1978) Employment grade and coronary heart disease in British civil servants. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 32(4), 244.Google Scholar
Marmot, M. G., Shipley, M. J. & Rose, G. (1984) Inequalities in death-specific explanations of a general pattern? The Lancet 323(8384), 10031006.Google Scholar
Marmot, M. G., Stansfeld, S., Patel, C., North, F., Head, J., White, I. & Smith, G. D. (1991) Health inequalities among British civil servants: the Whitehall II Study. The Lancet 337(8754), 13871393.Google Scholar
Mednick, S., Gabrielli, W. & Hutchings, B. (1984) Genetic influences in criminal convictions: evidence from an adoption cohort. Science 224(4651), 891894.Google Scholar
Mirowsky, J. & Ross, C. E. (2003) Education, Social Status, and Health. A. de Gruyter.Google Scholar
Nam, C. B. & Powers, M. G. (1983) Socioeconomic Approach to Status Measurement: With a Guide to Occupational and Socioeconomic Status Scores. Cap and Gown Press, Houston.Google Scholar
Pearl, R. (1931) Studies on Human Longevity IV. The Inheritance of Longevity: Preliminary Report. Human Biology 3, 245269.Google Scholar
Philippe, P. & Opitz, J. M. (1978) Familial correlations of longevity: an isolate-based study. American Journal of Medical Genetics 2(2), 121129.Google Scholar
Ross, C. E. & Wu, C. (1995) The links between education and health. American Sociological Review 60(5), 719745.Google Scholar
Shanahan, M. J. & Hofer, S. M. (2005) Social context in gene-environment interactions: retrospect and prospect. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 60, 6576.Google Scholar
Silberg, J., Pickles, A., Rutter, M., Hewitt, J., Simonoff, E., Maes, H. & Eaves, L. (1999) The influence of genetic factors and life stress on depression among adolescent girls. Archives of General Psychiatry 56(3), 225232.Google Scholar
Smith, K. R., Mineau, G. P., Garibotti, G. & Kerber, R. (2009) Effects of childhood and middle-adulthood family conditions on later-life mortality: evidence from the Utah Population Database, 1850–2002. Social Science & Medicine 68(9), 16491658.Google Scholar
Son, M., Armstrong, B., Choi, J. M. & Yoon, T. Y. (2002) Relation of occupational class and education with mortality in Korea. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 56(10), 798.Google Scholar
Tienari, P., Wynne, L. C., Moring, J., Lahti, al. (1994) The Finnish adoptive family study of schizophrenia: implications for family research. British Journal of Psychiatry 164 (Supplement 23), 2026.Google Scholar
Vaupel, J. W. (1988) Inherited frailty and longevity. Demography 25(2), 277287.Google Scholar
Wicks, S., Hjern, A. & Dalman, C. (2010) Social risk or genetic liability for psychosis? A study of children born in Sweden and reared by adoptive parents. American Journal of Psychiatry 167(10), 12401246.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Williams, G. C. (1957) Pleiotropy, natural selection, and the evolution of senescence. Evolution 11(4), 398411.Google Scholar
Wyshak, G. (1978) Fertility and longevity in twins, sibs, and parents of twins. Biodemography and Social Biology 25(4), 315330.Google Scholar