Farming, Fatherhood Hallmarks of Men Who Live to 100

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By E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporter
Monday, November 19, 2007; 12:00 AM

MONDAY, Nov. 19 (HealthDay News) -- A young, trim farmer with four or more children: According to a new study, that's the ideal profile for American men hoping to reach 100 years of age.

The research, based largely on data from World War I draft cards, suggests that keeping off excess weight in youth, farming and fathering a large number of offspring all help men live past a century.

One finding in particular was unexpected, the researchers said.

"We were surprised that having more than three children is beneficial to longevity -- based on previous studies by other authors, and common sense, quite the opposite could be expected," said study co-author Leonid Gavrilov, who conducted the study with his wife, Natalia Gavrilova, both of the University of Chicago's Center on Aging.

Gavrilov, a leader in longevity research, was to present the findings Monday at the Gerontological Society of America annual meeting, in San Francisco.

The husband-and-wife team have long mined vital statistics and other data, looking for clues to why some people live into extreme old age.

Just last year, they reported one new finding: Babies born to women under 25 years of age were twice as likely to live to 100 years of age compared to infants born to moms aged 25 or older.

The new research in men was spurred by the fact that a treasure trove of information about 20th-century American males has now been put online: World War I Draft Registration Cards.

From 1917 to 1918, almost all adult males aged 46 or under were required by law to fill out these cards, which asked them to detail a number of physical and social attributes.

In their study, Gavrilov and Gavrilova first used Social Security data to locate 240 men born in 1887 who lived to be at least 100.

In 171 of those cases, the men's physical and social attributes at age 30 were recorded on their WW I draft cards -- giving the researchers a snapshot of their lives at the time.

The Chicago team then compared that data against draft card information for a randomly selected group of American men who were also born in 1887 but who did not reach 100.


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