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Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Aug 7;270(1524):1541-7.

Reproduction and longevity among the British peerage: the effect of frailty and health selection.

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  • 1Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Konrad-Zuse-Strasse 1, 18057 Rostock, Germany.


Whether a cost of reproduction exists among humans is still questionable. A major study of aristocratic British families finds a significant positive correlation between parity and late-life mortality, which indicates a trade-off between reproduction and longevity. This result is supported by four other studies, while earlier studies have not found a relationship or came to the opposite conclusion. We show that in natural fertility populations the relationship between fertility and late-life mortality cannot be studied correctly without considering the effects of differences in health and of mortality selection during childbearing ages because these two effects lead to a dampening of the true relationship. If these effects are controlled in Hollingsworth's genealogy of the British peerage a significant trade-off between reproduction and longevity exists for females but not for males.

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