Are Longevous Women Infertile?

Leonid Gavrilov lagavril at midway.uchicago.edu
Fri May 2 14:17:23 EST 2003


May I bring  your attention to our new findings,
which will be presented on Friday, May 2,
at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association
 of America (Minneapolis, Minnesota):

"Is Fertility Impaired among the Longevous Women?
Testing the Evolutionary Theories of Aging":

Any comments and suggestions are welcome !

Kind regards,

-- Leonid Gavrilov
Senior Member of the Science Advisory Board


Is Fertility Impaired among the Longevous Women?
Testing the Evolutionary Theories of Aging

Natalia S. Gavrilova, University of Chicago
Leonid A. Gavrilov, University of Chicago
Galina N. Evdokushkina, Ministry of Health, Russia
Victoria G. Semyonova, Ministry of Health, Russia

The purpose of this study is to validate the earlier highly publicized
findings by Westendorp and Kirkwood published in Nature (1998, Vol.
396, pp. 743 -746) that human longevity comes with a high cost of
infertility (almost a half of longevous women were reported to be
childless). This finding is actively cited now in scientific
literature (over 70 citations) as an established fact supporting the
evolutionary theory of aging.

In this validation study we reanalyzed exactly the same database,
which was used in original publication (genealogies for British
aristocracy) and cross-checked the data with other professional data
sources in order to test whether the reported number of children was
correct. To our surprise we have found that at least in 32% cases (107
out of 335 cases) the childlessness claims in the original dataset
were false because of data incompleteness.

We also have found that high rate of  "childlessness" among long-lived
women is an artifact of data incompleteness, caused by under-reporting
of children. After data cleaning, cross-checking and supplementation
the association between exceptional longevity and childlessness has

Thus, it is important now to revise a highly publicized scientific
concept of heavy reproductive costs for human longevity and to make
corrections in related teaching curriculums for students.

It is also important to disavow the doubts and concerns over further
extension of human lifespan, that were recently cast in biomedical
ethics because of gullible acceptance of the idea of harmful side
effects of lifespan extension, including infertility (Glannon, Journal
of Medicine and Philosophy, 2002, 27(3): 339-354).

We  present  new results on whether there is a reproductive cost for
human longevity, using new extensively cross-checked and validated
dataset on the numbers of children for over 4,000 married women with
known lifespan and not practicing contraception. Some preliminary
results of our studies are available online in the form power-point
presentation at:


We also have made publicly available online our previous 3
publications on related topic:

(1) Gavrilov, L.A., Gavrilova, N.S.
Is there a reproductive cost for human longevity?
Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine, 1999, 2(2): 121-123.
Available online at:

(2) Gavrilova, N.S., Gavrilov, L.A.
Data resources for biodemographic studies on familial clustering of
human longevity.
Demographic Research [Online], 1999, vol.1(4): 1-48.
See page 3, section 1.1."Illustrative example: The hopes and
disappointments with data on British aristocracy" in particular
Available online at:

(3) Gavrilov, L.A., Gavrilova, N.S.
Evolutionary theories of aging and longevity.
The Scientific World JOURNAL, 2002, 2: 339-356.
See pages 350-352 in particular
Available online at:

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