• nonagenarian siblings;
  • offspring;
  • longevity;
  • morbidity;
  • familial

OBJECTIVES: To compare the risk of mortality of nonagenarian siblings with that of sporadic nonagenarians (not selected on having a nonagenarian sibling) and to compare the prevalence of morbidity in their offspring with that of the offsprings' partners.

DESIGN: Longitudinal (mortality risk) and cross-sectional (disease prevalence).

SETTING: Nationwide sample.

PARTICIPANTS: The Leiden Longevity Study consists of 991 nonagenarian siblings derived from 420 Caucasian families, 1,365 of their offspring, and 621 of the offsprings' partners. In the Leiden 85-plus Study, 599 subjects aged 85 were included, of whom 275 attained the age of 90 (sporadic nonagenarians).

MEASUREMENTS: All nonagenarian siblings and sporadic nonagenarians were followed for mortality (with a mean±standard deviation follow-up time of 2.7±1.4 years and 3.0±1.5 years, respectively). Information on medical history and medication use was collected for offspring and their partners.

RESULTS: Nonagenarian siblings had a 41% lower risk of mortality (P<.001) than sporadic nonagenarians. The offspring of nonagenarian siblings had a lower prevalence of myocardial infarction (2.4% vs 4.1%, P=.03), hypertension (23.0% vs 27.5%, P=.01), diabetes mellitus (4.4% vs 7.6%, P=.004), and use of cardiovascular medication (23.0% vs 28.9%, P=.003) than their partners.

CONCLUSION: The lower mortality rate of nonagenarian siblings and lower prevalence of morbidity in their middle-aged offspring reinforce the notion that resilience against disease and death have similar underlying biology that is determined by genetic or familial factors.