Skip to main content Accessibility help

Research on ageing and longevity in Estonia

  • Riin Tamm (a1), Kai Saks (a2) and Mati Pääsuke (a3)

Due to demographic changes, the population ageing process in Estonia accelerated rapidly at the end of the 20th century. In Estonia, research in gerontology and geriatrics has no long-standing tradition. In the beginning, social aspects like the pension system, coping strategies and well-being of aged people, were the research focus. More recently, epidemiological studies of diseases seen in the older population have been extensively conducted. In clinical medicine, the main research topics have been osteoporosis, Parkinson's disease, dementia and stroke.

In this review, changes in neuromuscular function and hormonal regulation during ageing, and the genetic aspects of the Estonian Longevity Study will be described. The aim of the current paper is to introduce the main fields of gerontological research in Estonia to allow better integration with other research groups.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Riin Tamm, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu, 23 Riia Street, 51010, Tartu, Estonia. Email:
Hide All
2Leppik, L. Co-ordination of pensions in the European Union: The case of mandatory defined-contribution schemes in the Central and Eastern European countries. Eur J Soc Secur 2006; 8: 3555.
3Leppik, L. Experiences with international social security conventions: A point of view from Central and Eastern European states. In Pennings, F (ed), International social security standards: Current views and interpretation matters. Tilburg: Intersentia, 2007: pp. 80–92.
4Saks, K, Oja, K, Kivisaar, S. Marginaliseerumise riski vähendamine eakatel: pensionisüsteem, tervishoiuteenused, sotsiaalteenused. Olukorra kirjeldus Eestis 2003.a [Reduction of the risk of marginalization in older people: Pension system, health and social care services. State of the Art in Estonia 2003], Tartu, 2004: p. 52.
5Saks, K, Tiit, EM, Muurinen, S, Mukkila, S, Frommelt, M, Hammond, M. Quality of life in institutional care. In Vaarama, M, Pieper, R, Sixsmith, R (eds), Care-related quality of life in old age: Concepts, models, and empirical findings. New York: Springer, 2008: pp. 196–216.
6Tulva, T. Eakate aktiivsest eluhoiakust [Active attitude in old age]. Sotsiaaltöö [Social Work] 2005; 6: 5859.
7Tulva, T. Ageing in Estonia and challenges for professional growth. In Saari, S and Varis, T (eds), Ammatillinen kasvu [Professional growth]. Keuruu: Otavan Kirjapaino OY, 2007: 448–56.
8Saks, K, Kolk, H, Soots, A et al. Health status of the older population in Estonia. Croat Med J 2001; 42: 663–68.
9Saks, K, Tiit, E, Käärik, E, Jaanson, K. Depressive symptoms in older Estonians: Prevalence and models. J Am Geriatr Soc 2002; 50: 1164–65.
10Saks, K, Kolk, H, Soots, A, Takker, U, Vask, M. Prevalence of cardiovascular disorders among the elderly in primary care in Estonia. Scand J Prim Health Care 2003; 21: 106–9.
11Haviko, T, Maasalu, K, Seeder, J. The incidence of osteoporotic fractures at the University Hospital of Tartu, Estonia. Scand J Rheumatol 1996; s103: 1315.
12Haviko, T, Kirjanen, K, Martson, A, Parv, M. Total hip arthroplasty: Clinical results. J Bone Joint Surg Br 2004; s3: 250.
13Kõrv, J, Roose, M. Stroke epidemiology in Estonia. Atherosclerosis Suppl 2004; 5: 3233.
14Linnamägi, Ü, Asser, T. Dementne inimene, koormus ühiskonnale [Persons with dementia–burden for the society]. Eesti Arst [Estonian Physician] 2004; 83: 256–61.
15Taba, P, Asser, T. Incidence of Parkinson's disease in Estonia. Neuroepidemiology 2003; 22: 4145.
16Taba, P, Kanarik, E, Krikmann, Ü et al. Cognitive behavioural education programme for Parkinsonian patients and carers. J Neurol Sci 2005; 238: S372.
17Häkkinen, K, Pakarinen, . Muscle strength and serum testosterone, cortisol and SHBG concentrations in middle-aged and elderly men and women. Acta Physiol Scand 1993; 148: 199207.
18Pääsuke, M, Ereline, J, Gapeyeva, H, Sirkel, S, Sander, P. Age-related differences in twitch contractile properties of plantarflexor muscles in women. Acta Physiol Scand 2000; 170: 5157.
19Pääsuke, M, Ereline, J, Gapeyeva, H, Maamägi, H. Comparison of twitch-contractile properties of plantar-flexor muscles in young and 52- to 63-year-old men. J Aging Phys Activ 2002; 10: 160–8.
20Kuu, S, Gapeyeva, H, Ereline, J, Pääsuke, M. Twitch contractile properties of plantarflexor muscles in young and middle-aged recreationally physically active and non-active women. Aging Clin Exp Res 2009; 19: 4854.
21Pääsuke, M, Ereline, J, Gapeyeva, H. Age-related differences in knee extension rate of isometric force development and vertical jumping performance in women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2003; 43: 453–58.
22Pääsuke, M, Ereline, J, Gapeyeva, H, Joost, K, Mõttus, K, Taba, P. Leg-extension strength and chair-rise performance in elderly women with Parkinson's disease. J Aging Phys Activ 2004; 12: 511–24.
23Schalow, G, Pääsuke, M, Ereline, J, Gapeyeva, H. Co-ordination dynamics in Parkinson's disease patients and healthy subjects quantified by the co-ordination dynamic recording method and sEMG. Electromyogr Clin Neurophysiol 2003; 43: 473–85.
24Schalow, G, Pääsuke, M, Jaigma, P. Integrative re-organization mechanism for reducing tremor in Parkinson's disease patients. Electromyogr Clin Neurophysiol 2005; 45: 407–15.
25Jürimäe, J, Jürimäe, T. Plasma adiponectin concentration in healthy pre- and postmenopüausal women: relationship with body composition, bone mineral, and metabolic variables. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2007; 293: E4247.
26Jürimäe, J, Kums, T, Jürimäe, T. Plasma ghrelin concentration is a signal of decreased fat free mass in healthy elderly females. Am J Hum Biol 2009; 21: 404–6.
27Jürimäe, J, Kums, T, Jürimäe, T. Adipocytokine and ghrelin levels in relation to bone mineral density in physically active older women: longitudinal associations. Eur J Endocrinol 2009; 160: 381–85.
28Giannakouris, K. Ageing characterises the demographic perspectives of the European societies. Population and social conditions Statistics in Focus 72. Eurostat, 2008.
29Friedman, DB, Johnson, TE. A mutation in the age-1 gene in Caenorhabditis elegans lengthens life and reduces hermaphrodite fertility. Genetics 1988; 118: 7586.
30Kapahi, P, Zid, BM, Harper, T, Koslover, D, Sapin, V, Benzer, S. Regulation of lifespan in Drosophila by modulation of genes in the TOR signaling pathway. Curr Biol 2004; 14: 885–90.
31Phillips, JP, Parkes, TL, Hilliker, AJ. Targeted neuronal gene expression and longevity in Drosophila. Exp Gerontol 2000; 35: 1157–64.
32Johnson, TE, Wood, WB. Genetic analysis of life-span in Caenorhabditis elegans. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1982; 79: 6603–7.
33Kahn, A, Fraga, MF. Epigenetics and aging: status, challenges, and needs for the future. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2009; 64: 195–98.
34Esteller, M. Epigenetics in cancer. N Engl J Med 2008; 358: 1148–59.
35Hjelmborg, J, Iachine, I, Skytthe, A et al. Genetic influence on human lifespan and longevity. Hum Genet 2006; 119: 312–21.
36Hancock, DB, Martin, ER, Vance, JM, Scott, WK. Nitric oxide synthase genes and their interactions with environmental factors in Parkinson's disease. Neurogenetics 2008; 9: 249–62.
37Polonikov, AV, Ivanov, VP, Solodilova, MA. Genetic variation of genes for xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes and risk of bronchial asthma: the importance of gene–gene and gene–environment interactions for disease susceptibility. J Hum Genet 2009; 54: 440–49.
38Hitt, R, Young-Xu, Y, Silver, M, Perls, T. Centenarians: the older you get, the healthier you have been. Lancet 1999; 354: 652.
39Lin, SJ, Kaeberlein, M, Andalis, AA et al. Calorie restriction extends Saccharomyces cerevisiae lifespan by increasing respiration. Nature 2002; 418: 344–48.
40Sohal, RS, Weindruch, R. Oxidative stress, caloric restriction, and aging. Science 1996; 273: 5963.
41Marchini, J, Cardon, LR, Phillips, MS, Donnelly, P. The effects of human population structure on large genetic association studies. Nat Genet 2004; 36: 512–17.
42Pritchard, JK, Stephens, M, Donnelly, P. Inference of population structure using multilocus genotype data. Genetics 2000; 155: 945–59.
43Lao, O, Lu, TT, Nothnagel, M et al. Correlation between genetic and geographic structure in Europe. Curr Biol 2008; 18: 1241–48.
44Nelis, M, Esko, T, Mägi, R et al. Genetic structure of Europeans: a view from the North-East. PLoS One 2009; 4: e5472.
45Novembre, J, Johnson, T, Bryc, K et al. Genes mirror geography within Europe. Nature 2008; 456: 98101.
46Choi, BG, McLaughlin, MA. Why men's hearts break: cardiovascular effects of sex steroids. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am 2007; 36: 365–77.
47Andersen, K, Launer, LJ, Dewey, ME et al. Gender differences in the incidence of AD and vascular dementia: The EURODEM Studies. EURODEM Incidence Research Group. Neurology 1999; 53: 1992–97.
48Gater, R, Tansella, M, Korten, A, Tiemens, BG, Mavreas, VG, Olatawura, MO. Sex differences in the prevalence and detection of depressive and anxiety disorders in general health care settings: report from the World Health Organization Collaborative Study on Psychological Problems in General Health Care. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1998; 55: 405–13.
49Aleman, A, Kahn, RS, Selten, JP. Sex differences in the risk of schizophrenia: evidence from meta-analysis. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2003; 60: 565–71.
50Wooten, GF, Currie, LJ, Bovbjerg, VE, Lee, JK, Patrie, J. Are men at greater risk for Parkinson's disease than women? J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2004; 75: 637–39.
51Hindorff, LA, Sethupathy, P, Junkins, HA. Potential etiologic and functional implications of genome-wide association loci for human diseases and traits. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2009; 106: 9362–67.
52Novelli, V, Viviani Anselmi, C et al. Lack of replication of genetic associations with human longevity. Biogerontology 2008; 9: 8592.
53Smith, JD. Apolipoproteins and aging: emerging mechanisms. Ageing Res Rev 2002; 1: 345–65.
54Anselmi, CV, Malovini, A, Roncarati, R et al. Association of the FOXO3A locus with extreme longevity in a southern Italian centenarian study. Rejuvenation Res 2009; 12: 95104.
55Flachsbart, F, Caliebe, A, Kleindorp, R et al. Association of FOXO3A variation with human longevity confirmed in German centenarians. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2009; 106: 2700–5.
56Li, Y, Wang, WJ, Cao, H et al. Genetic association of FOXO1A and FOXO3A with longevity trait in Han Chinese populations. Hum Mol Genet 2009; 18: 4897–904.
57Willcox, BJ, Donlon, TA, He, Q et al. FOXO3A genotype is strongly associated with human longevity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2008; 105: 13987–92.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Reviews in Clinical Gerontology
  • ISSN: 0959-2598
  • EISSN: 1469-9036
  • URL: /core/journals/reviews-in-clinical-gerontology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed