Your lifespan is related to that of your inlaws
May 20, 2019 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Using 400 million records from, researchers have determined that assortative mating (previously; not previously) has an influence on longevity. Their work has lowered the estimate of the impact of genetics on longevity from 15-30% to 7%. Paper.
Without seeing the future, it’s difficult to choose a spouse based on lifespan. But, as the authors discuss in the text, one complex factor that has been previously shown to be transferred within families and to also influence lifespan is socioeconomic status, which encompasses a variety of aspects, including wealth and education level. Thus, when people choose a partner with a similar educational background or familial level of wealth, they could be contributing to the observed effect of assortative mating.

“They make a pretty convincing case that most of the previously published estimates of the heritability of longevity are probably inflated by” assortative mating, says Richard Kerber, who studies longevity at the University of Louisville and was not involved in the work.
posted by clawsoon (16 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I had to look up assortative mating:
It means that individuals with similar phenotypes mate with one another more frequently than would be expected under a random mating pattern. Some examples of similar phenotypes are body size, skin coloration or pigmentation, and age. Assortative mating can increase genetic relatedness within the family and is the inverse of disassortative mating.
(Do you want the Howard Families? Because that's how you get the Howard Families.)
posted by The Tensor at 11:21 AM on May 20 [12 favorites]

The quotation is from this article (like the paper, from November 2018).
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:25 AM on May 20

Do they talk about how much of the effect is other humans giving each other a hard time?
posted by bleep at 11:27 AM on May 20 [10 favorites]

I may be reading this wrong, but it seems that it's not that assortive mating that has an influence on one's own longevity, but just the reverse.

One's own particular traits (including longevity) guide one to mate with someone with similar traits. So yes, your in-laws are going to have similar longevity, but it doesn't influence your own lifespan. Rather, the correlation is there because you specifically selected a mate with similar likelihood of longevity (which they inherited from their parents, your in-laws).

Or are they saying the effect is stronger than that: that your selection has a feedback to your own longevity outlook? That would make sense, I suppose.
posted by darkstar at 11:33 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]

I sort of mated once. How long do I got?
posted by srboisvert at 12:04 PM on May 20 [19 favorites]

This makes beautiful sense to me and explains my life experience. I was trucking along at around 15 pounds overweight on my Goop-wannabe farmers' market diet for years and years when aaaall of a sudden! My boooooyfriend moved in! His ass eats at goddamn midnight most nights and what he mostly eats is ramen, rice, and the completely texture-free offerings of the chef boy-ar-dee. Presently, owing partly to that but mostly to his remarkable willingness to leap into the car and hurtle off to Popeye's or to the grocery store for frozen taquitos at the merest hint from me, I became like 75 pounds overweight. And so I have remained for a few years, now.

My grandfather was a Mister-Rogers-grade healthy weight maintainer his entire life and lived to be 95, as did my grandmother, who was a natural sloth and pudgeball like my current self but whom he dragged along with him into pretty good health by insisting, among other things, that they take a walk after dinner every night of their lives. The same good fortune befell my grandmother's daughter, my aunt, who was always fat but who married a toothpick like her father who played baseball every weekend, and now she's fit and strong and takes vacations with her husband where they snorkel the Galapagos and tromp all over Scotland. I'm struggling to adopt my grandfather's and uncle's methods with my boyfriend in order to stave off diverticulitis in him and immobility in me and hopefully get us at least into our eighties.

First I took over breakfast. I wrested his beloved sugarblasted cereals from him and began to pack him full of vegetable matter in the a.m.

Now I'm adding veg at dinner. He'll still eat his buckets of boiled heart disease, but I'm adding broccoli to it. MANDATORY BROCCOLI.

If we don't make it to at least ninety, it'll be because we caught baylisiscaris from the cat or we got nuked or fell off a building. It will not be because taquitos.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:22 PM on May 20 [33 favorites]

OK, but which set of in-laws? My first wife's parents passed a while ago, as did my second wife's dad. Her mom has remarried, and he's got to 95 so far. Does that count?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:00 PM on May 20

My in-laws were/are poor and ornery and demented. They are at war with the entire world as well as their own immune systems and live to be too damn old to have to put up with that shit. Do I want to live to be that old??
posted by infinitewindow at 1:22 PM on May 20

The Tensor: I had to look up assortative mating

The "previously" and "not previously" links have a reasonably good discussion of how this applies to humans (sometimes with happy results, sometimes - as when class differences destroy love - not so happy results). In humans it's not so much about physical phenotypes as it is about social status and personality traits:
Economically successful women partner with economically successful men, and physically attractive women partner with physically attractive men.... [R]eally nice guys get really nice girls.
No mention of whether assholes end up with assholes.
posted by clawsoon at 1:33 PM on May 20

My first thought was that for a woman that marries a family where her mother-in-law lives a long time, it indicates the family does not have generational abuse/will not murder the woman.
posted by saucysault at 1:53 PM on May 20 [12 favorites]

Oh no. Oh nooooo.
posted by zdravo at 2:00 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

Assholes end up without inlaws. Assholes end up alone.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:02 PM on May 20

Assholes end up alone.

In a just universe, maybe. In this one, though...
posted by spacewrench at 2:58 PM on May 20 [8 favorites]

You know, I had always suspected my in laws of slowly killing me. I just thought it was the nagging!
posted by floweredfish at 5:22 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]

I've had four sets of in-laws, and they're all dead. I'm doomed. Well, of course I am, but the women all lived way up in their 80s.
posted by Miss Cellania at 5:50 PM on May 20

I'm not married. Either I'm dead already or immortal.
posted by Thella at 1:50 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]

« Older Everything's going fine. No trouble. Just get set...   |   She disappears for exactly 22 minutes at a time Newer »

You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.