Data Bases Genealogical Data
4 Data resources for long-lived persons and their families

One of the approaches to study of the familial aggregation of human longevity is to find long-lived persons (nonagenarians and centenarians, etc.) and then to collect information about their families for further scientific analysis. In this review the following investigators were identified who work in this research area and who might be contacted for the purpose of collecting more detailed information about their databases:

4.1 Baltimore Longevity Study

The Baltimore Longevity Study was initiated in 1922 by Raymond Pearl who collected data on the ancestry of nonagenarians [132]. This study was extended further by Professor Edmond Murphy at Johns Hopkins University and produced many new results important for understanding the mechanisms of human longevity [1, 2, 81, 122]. This study was supported by grant GM-08944 and by grant 5-R01-CH00330 from the U.S. Public Health Service. Preliminary attempts to find these data from one of the participants of this Study (Dr. Helen Abbey) revealed that the archives were lost during relocations in the Johns Hopkins University. However, other participants of the Baltimore Longevity Study will eventually be contacted for the purpose of locating this unique source of information on familial longevity.

4.2 Centenarian Studies in Europe

4.2.1 Familial studies of centenarians in France

The largest survey of centenarians has been started in 1990 by the IPSEN Foundation in France that included medical examination of 756 persons (663 women and 93 men), about a quarter of the estimated total number of centenarians living in France [5, 6, 148]. Dr. Michel Allard, the head of the project, is actively collecting familial data on French centenarians over the whole country.

Drs. Robine and Allard [149] have studied the familial aggregation of longevity among the relatives of the longest-lived woman Jeanne Calment, who died in Arles, France on August 4, 1997, at the age of 122 years and 164 days. For the purpose of their study they have identified 62 immediate ancestors of Jeanne Calment corresponding to 5 generations (two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, and 32 great-great-great-grandparents). Robine and Allard [149] were able to validate the lengths of life for 55 ancestors out of these 62. They have found that the immediate ancestors of Jeanne Calment lived longer than the matched controls, especially on her paternal side. On the other hand, the parents of Jeanne Calment had lost two children in infancy before she was born, while her brother died at age of 97 [149]. Robine and Allard also collected genealogical data on familial longevity for the city of Arles where Jeanne Calment was born [148].

4.2.2 The Italian Multicentric Study of Centenarians

This study involves 21 University Centers and focuses on epidemiological and socioeconomic characteristics of centenarians. The investigation examined 382 randomly selected centenarians from a total 1162 centenarian subjects recorded by Italian census carried out on 31 December, 1993. The analysis included collection of family history data. Analysis of the data revealed that the centenarians had a family history of long life: the mean survival of centenarians' parents (73 ± 16.5 years), grandparents (78.76 ± 15.3 years) and siblings (70.71 ± 25.3 years) was much higher than that of Italian population in 1950 (66 years). For the complete list of the participants see special publications [113, 163].

Recently the National Institute on Aging has been established in Italy (Director - Dr. Claudio Franceschi). One of the scientific directions of this Institute is the study of Italian centenarians, including studies of familial clustering of longevity.

4.2.3 Familial studies of centenarians in Belgium

Data on Belgian centenarians and their families are being actively collected by Dr. Michel Poulain (Professor of the Center on Demographic Studies for Public Administration, GéDAP, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium), Dr. Dany Chambre and Michel Foulon. They have collected data on more than 5000 Belgian centenarians born in 1870-1897. Information on centenarians' genealogies is also collected using archive data and other sources [145].

4.2.4 Swedish Centenarian Study

These studies are carried out by Sven-Mĺrten Samuelsson, Bo Hagberg, Gillis Samuelsson, Betty Bauer Alfredson, Bertil Nordbeck at the Gerontology Research Centre, Lund, Sweden.

The purpose of this project, is to identify the medical, psychological and social qualities in the centenarians, to relate the centenarians characteristics to known aging models, to assess the different qualities contributing to the attainment of advanced age, to make interdisciplinary comparisons in cooperation with other international centenarian studies and to identify national and general aging determinants. Centenarians born 1887-91, who lived in southern Sweden were asked to participate in this multidisciplinary study (N = 164). Of the survivors (N = 143), 70 percent agreed (N = 100). The purpose was to describe the population from physical, social, and psychological points of view; to characterize centenarians with various health conditions and diverse degrees of autonomy and life satisfaction; and to identify factors at 100 years that predict future survival. Results: Eighty-two percent were women, 25 percent lived in their own home, 37 percent in old age homes, and 38 percent in nursing homes. Socioeconomic status showed a similar distribution compared to nationally representative data. Fifty-two percent managed activities of daily living with or without minor assistance. The incidence of severe diseases was low. Results suggested that centenarians are a special group genetically. A causal structure model emphasized body constitution, marital status, cognition and blood pressure as particularly important determinants for survival after 100 years [151].

4.2.5 Centenarian Studies in Denmark

Research team

Jeune B, Skytthe A, Vaupel JW, Olsen H, Andersen-Ranberg K

Odense Universitet, Center for Helsetjenesteforskning og Socialpolitik (CHS).

Current research projects

Nonagenarians and centenarians in Denmark. A clinical-epidemiological survey of a dynamic cohort.

Lifespan and exceptional longevity.

Data on long-lived persons kept at CHS:

the Danish Centenarian Register,

The International Oldest-Old Database.

In these projects the demography of centenarians in Denmark in the period 1775-1995 were studied. The prevalence of centenarians in Denmark increased from about 1-2 pr. million in the last half of the 1800s to about 80 pr. million in 1995, especially among women since 1950 leading to a female/male-ratio of three to one. A total of 4292 centenarian deaths were found reported in different sources. The number of reported centenarian deaths was found to be much higher in the first half than in the last half of the 1800s, especially among men and among 105+ year-old: A thorough examination of 275 reported centenarian deaths on the Island of Funen from before 1900 indicates that this most plausibly was due to age-exaggeration and lack of validation of the reported ages before 1850.

In another study the authors described morbidity and functional capacity of centenarians in the County of Funen. A total of 51 out of 58 centenarians on Funen born on May 1, 1894 or before participated. An interview could be carried out almost completely in 80.4% of the 51 participants, cognitive testing (MMSE) in 78.4% and physical performance test (PPT) in 49%. Additional information on morbidity and activities of daily living (ADL) was collected on all 51 centenarians from family members, nursing staff, GP's, hospital registries and the National Cancer Registry. Almost 3/4 were women and 58.8% were in an old people's home.

Studies on Danish centenarians are described in many publications [9, 10, 23, 79, 92-94, 103, 130, 158, 179].

4.2.6 Centenarian Study in Germany

Centenarian studies in Germany are now conducted in the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (Founding and Executive Director - Professor James W. Vaupel, Ph.D.). The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research was opened in October 1996 in Rostock to produce basic, scientific research on selected demographic questions. The focus of the studies is on questions that offer particularly promising opportunities for systematic, intensive investigation by collaborative teams of scholars. In cooperation with the venerable University of Rostock (established in 1419), the Institute also endeavors to advance the scientific discipline of demography.

The Institute is currently involved in numerous research projects on longevity being conducted by the Laboratory of Survival and Longevity to study the question of why some people die at 60 and others at 90 and what can be done about it. One of the research projects is devoted to the Centenarians and Supercentenarians.

A focus on extreme cases is often a good way to gain research leverage at reasonable expense. Almost all theories fit empirical data under ordinary circumstances—otherwise the theories would not have been proposed. Hence to test theories, extreme cases provide crucial information. Because only a few people per hundred (e.g., in Western Europe and Japan) or per thousand (e.g., in China) survive from age 80 to age 100, centenarians are worth studying, perhaps in comparison with octogenarians and nonagenarians. Even in the most developed countries today only a few centenarians per thousand survive to age 110, so such supercentenarians represent the outer extremes of human existence. An international Supercentenarian Register (with DNA data as well as environmental, behavioral and health data) could provide precious information and will be established and developed in the Institute. The work on establishing such a Supercentenarian Register in the Institute is in progress now [168, 171, 172].

4.2.7 Centenarian Study in Finland

The research team working at the Second Department of Medicine, University of Helsinki include Louhija J., Miettinen H.E., Kontula K., Tikkanen M.J., Miettinen T.A., Tilvis R.S.

In their study the common polymorphism of apolipoprotein E (E2, E3, and E4), apolipoprotein B Xba I polymorphism, and apolipoprotein C-III Sst I polymorphism was determined in almost all Finnish centenarians alive in 1991 (n = 179/185). Plasma lipid and lipoprotein levels in different apolipoprotein genotypes were also measured [110, 160].

4.3 Centenarian Studies in the United States

Centenarian studies in the United States are rather active now and include: (1) Georgia Centenarian Study, (2) familial studies of centenarians in Iowa, (3) New England Centenarian Study Projects and (4) studies on familial aggregation of human longevity using Utah Population Database (described above).

4.3.1 Georgia Centenarian Study

The Georgia Centenarian Study formally began in 1988 with a four-year research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. A supplementary grant was obtained a year later to implement a nutrition component in the study.

In this study eighty-eight participants in each of three cohorts were tested: cohorts born in the 1880s (centenarians), 1900s (80-89 year olds at the time of testing), and 1920s. These cohorts were selected on the basis of their experience of distinct historical events (i.e., the Great Depression and World War II) during their developing years. The ages of the centenarians were confirmed by relatives and one other source {e.g., family bible). Because the State of Georgia did not begin to compile formal birth records until the 1920s, it was not possible to verify the date of birth by formal means. Secondary government sources (e.g., social security) were also helpful in confirming an individual's age.

The centenarians were recruited by referrals from a wide network of state (including the offices of the Governor and Secretary of State) and local agencies, churches, television and print media, and individuals contacted by the project staff. A full-time recruiter worked to track down referrals across the state of Georgia, obtain informed consent, perform preliminary screening, schedule participants and testers in different parts of the state, explain the study to family or relatives, debrief the participants and families, and keep track of the changing status of the participants (birthdays, health status and institutionalization, and funerals).

During the study information about longevity of siblings, parents, grandparents, and children was obtained. The information was verified by at least one other source to ensure its accuracy. Family longevity was used as an individual-difference variable to predict membership in age groups in our individual-difference model. Other information collected in this study included: Social and environmental support, Personality, Stress and coping, Life satisfaction and morale, Health, Mental health, Nutrition and dietary patterns, Intelligence and cognition, Reminiscence, Religiosity. This study has not revealed familial history of longevity among centenarians. For more information see the related publications [114, 142].

4.3.2 Familial studies of centenarians in Iowa

Large collection of data on long-lived persons in Iowa with attempts to collect information about their families was managed by Dr. Peter Martin (Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University, 209, CD Building, Ames, IA, 50011, USA). The data on Iowa long-lived persons including centenarians are kept in computerized form. Since Dr. Peter Martin is working now in Germany, the current status of the project could be requested from the Human Development and Family Studies Department of the Iowa State University.

4.3.3 New England Centenarian Study Projects

Based at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the New England Centenarian Study's mission is to study centenarians who we believe carry the secrets to successful aging and how to delay or even escape diseases associated with aging. The underlying hypothesis of the study is that centenarians are a select cohort who have a history of aging relatively slowly and who have either markedly delayed or entirely escaped diseases normally associated with aging such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, stroke and heart disease. The study is made up of 4 major components: (i) an ongoing population-based medical and demographic study of approximately all centenarians living within Boston and seven of its suburban communities (ii) neuropsychological-neuropathological correlation, definition of what is "normal" versus what is disease among this group (iii) population genetics, discovering familial patterns relating to the phenotype of extreme longevity and (iv) molecular genetics, searching for both nuclear and mitochondrial longevity enabling genes using centenarian sibling-pairs, families highly clustered for extreme longevity and random centenarian subjects in conjunction with younger controls [8, 134-139, 156].

4.3.4 Studies of Familial Longevity Using Utah Population Database

Familial data on long-lived persons are studied at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT on the basis of Utah Population Database. There are two projects devoted to the studies of familial aggregation in human longevity and supported by the National Institute on Aging (PI - Dr. Richard Cawthon): the R03 project "Selection of families for genetic analyses of longevity" and the K01 project "Identification of genes contributing to human longevity".

The specific aims of these research projects are 1) To test the hypothesis that mitochondrial inheritance contributes to longevity, and 2) To develop criteria to select sib pairs suitable for genetic linkage studies of longevity. Both aims will be carried out by analyzing mortality and family relationship data in the Utah Population Database, a large genealogy containing records on approximately 1.2 million individuals from 170,000 families.

4.4 Centenarian Studies in Asia

4.4.1 Centenarian Studies in Japan

Centenarians in Japan consisted of number 4,152 persons. By prefecture, Tokyo had the most centenarians (383), followed by Okinawa (193) and Fukuoka (151) prefectures. Fukui had the least (24), followed by Akita (26) and Ishikawa (29) prefectures. The proportion of centenarians in Japan was 21.6 (per 100,000 populations) in 1990. By prefecture, the highest proportion lived in Okinawa (133.8), whereas the fewest were found in Akita (8.9) [129].

a. Tokyo Centenarian Study

Department of Psychiatry, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology.

A survey to investigate the psychiatric and physical characteristics of centenarians was conducted from 1987 to 1989 in the Tokyo metropolitan area with a team of psychiatrists and psychologists using a semi-structured interview form. In that period, out of 509 centenarians living in Tokyo, 294 persons and their caregivers (57.8%) including the 65 institutionalized centenarians were examined. Two hundred and fifteen centenarians were not able to be interviewed due to various reasons. Out of 294 centenarians, 76 persons (25.9%) were interviewed by telephone. Also out of these, 176 (59.8%) were living with their son's or daughter's family. Ten male centenarians (12.8%) were living with their wives, while no female was living with a spouse. Five men and four women were living alone [84].

Then this study was continued in 1994 and 1995 when information on 45 Japanese centenarians living in Tokyo metropolitan area during was collected [84].

b. Study of Okinawan Centenarians

In this study conducted by the Research Center of Comprehensive Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Ryukyus, Japan, 87 healthy Okinawan centenarians and 148 healthy Okinawan controls were examined since 1987 with HLA phenotyping and family history questionnaires. The mean age in centenarians was 101.6 years, and that of controls was 66.4. The age and the cause of death of the parents of the subjects were also inquired. Subjects whose parent's deaths were by suicide, homicide, accident, war or due to war trauma, were excluded and only those resulting from illness or natural causes were included. The relation between age of death of parents and HLA-DR types were studied. Compared to controls, DR1 was significantly increased in the centenarians (p = 0.036, RR 4.239), and DR8 was decreased (p = 0.012, RR = 0.412). When the mean age of death of parents for each DR group and that of total was determined, the mean death age of those with DR9 was significantly lower than the mean of the total (p < 0.05). Moreover, when the frequency rate of the DR types were compared with the parents' death age, that of DR9 decreased as the age of death increased. It was suggested that some loci of HLA-DR relate to longevity and some genetic protection against immunorelated diseases contributes to long-lived lineage [4, 126].

c. Study of Centenarians in Nagoya City

The purpose of this study (conducted by the Department of Internal Medicine, Nagoya City Kohseiin Geriatric Hospital, Japan) was to assess the background to the longevity of 36 centenarians in Nagoya city and to compare 14 institutionalized centenarians out of those 36 with 202 individuals in the 70-99 age group in a special nursing home, particularly with regard to blood chemistry and immunity tests. Authors conclude that the reasons for their social longevity in terms of profile appeared to be attention to eating habits, abstention from smoking and drinking, occupations with adequate exercise. The incidence of dementia was 65.6% among them [89].

4.4.2 Centenarian Studies in China

a. Study of Centenarians in Beijing

Studies of Chinese centenarians are developed by Dr. Zeng Yi and Dr. Wang Zenglian (Institute of Population Research, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China) in collaboration with Dr. J.W.Vaupel (Max Plank Institute for Demographic Research, Konrad-Zuse-Strasse 1, D-18057 Rostock, Germany). Dr. Wang Zhenglian at PAA meeting (Chicago, 1998) has reported the results of her in-depth survey of the living arrangements, lifestyle and health status of 208 centenarians from Beijing, Chengdu and Hangzhou, China [172].

b. Study of Centenarians in Shanghai

This study was conducted by the Shanghai Institute of Geriatrics, Hua Dong Hospital, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.

One hundred and sixty centenarians were discovered and followed up for 7 years (1982-88) in Shanghai. The proportion of centenarians in the population was non-significantly greater in the urban than in the rural area and centenarians were in general increasing in both areas over the years. The factors promoting longevity were good medical care and benevolent attention from family members. Autopsy was performed in eight centenarians revealing the main causes of death as pneumonia and cancer [184].

4.5 Centenarian Studies in the Former Soviet Union

4.5.1 Centenarian Studies in Azerbaijan

Researchers from Azerbaijan have collected information on Azerbaijan centenarians: Chingiz Gasimov, Director of the Laboratory of Physiology and Longevity at the Physiological Institute, Ulduz Hashimov from the Institute of Physiology and Arif Abbasov, Director of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology. These scientists look forward to continuing their studies and in doing joint research with international groups in the future as the study of longevity is a field ripe for contributions from many disciplines-biologists, anthropologists, psychologists, physiologists, demographers, ethnographers, and folklorists.

4.5.2 Centenarian Studies in Russia

Scientists from the Russian Institute of Public Health (Moscow), Dr. Victoria G. Semyonova and Galina N. Evdokushkina in collaboration with Dr. Leonid A.Gavrilov and Natalia S. Gavrilova (now in Chicago) have collected and computerized data on Russian nonagenarians and centenarians including information on their genealogies. Now they continue to collect these data in collaboration with the Historical and Genealogical Society in Moscow [62].

Data Bases Genealogical Data

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Data Resources for Biodemographic Studies on Familial Clustering of Human Longevity
Natalia S. Gavrilova, Ph.D.
Leonid A. Gavrilov, Ph.D.
© 1999 - 2000 Max-Planck-Gesellschaft ISSN 1435-9871