Daughters increase longevity of fathers, but daughters and sons equally reduce longevity of mothers



Reproduction is energetically and physiologically expensive, and an individual investing resources into producing offspring should suffer costs such as deterioration in health condition and possibly shorter life span. Since the energetic and nutritional demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding render reproductive costs much higher in women than in men, women with a large number of children should show signs of deterioration in condition, while men with large families should not. However, whether reproductive costs reduce longevity in women is still questionable, and in men this issue has not been adequately addressed. In addition, since sons are energetically more expensive to produce than daughters, having sons should have a more pronounced negative impact on maternal longevity than having daughters. Here we document a striking disparity in the impact of children on the life span of mothers and fathers in a Polish rural population. We show for the first time that number of daughters was positively related to a longer life span of their fathers, increasing their longevity on average by 74 weeks per daughter born, while number of sons did not have a significant effect on paternal longevity. In contrast, in women, the number of daughters and number of sons reduced maternal longevity and did so to the same extent, on average by 95 weeks per son or daughter, indicating that for women, the costs of having sons and daughters are similar. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 18:422–425, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.