The New England Centenarian Study

The New England Centenarian Study is an international survey of exceptional human longevity that has recruited almost 4,000 centenarians, as well as some of their siblings and offspring since 1994. Participants are carefully phenotyped at enrollment and are followed annually to track their health, and their changes in physical and cognitive functions. We examine potential genes they may have in common and other lifestyle and environmental factors that could influence the ability to live to very old age in good health. Our key findings include:

  • Exceptional longevity runs strongly in families
  • Among centenarians, disability is typically compressed towards at least their early- to mid-nineties
  • With even older ages of survival, e.g., age 105+ years, morbidity is also compressed towards the end of these exceptionally long lives
  • The genetic influence upon survival increases with older and older ages of survival beyond the nonagenarian years
  • This genetic influence probably involves many genetic variants with individually modest effects, but as a group, they have a strong effectBut for some rare exceptions, centenarians have just as many disease-associated genetic variants as the average population. Thus, their genetic advantage is likely due to variants that slow aging and decrease risk for aging-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
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