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Think Your Superior DNA Will Help You Live Longer? This Shocking New Alphabet Study of 400 Million People Says You’re Wrong

Now you can stop thanking your grandma.

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BY Chris Matyszczyk - 07 Nov 2018

Think Your Superior DNA Will Help You Live Longer? This Shocking New Alphabet Study of 400 Million People Says You're Wrong

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


Life is a nonsense punctuated by grand emotions, high entertainment and the occasional disaster.

Somehow, though, we're still self-righteous enough to believe that we can control it.

Or at least influence it.

Or at least we want to believe that we have something chemically special inside us that will help us soar -- or perhaps live longer.

Yet along comes a new study that offers one existential giggle after another.

Conducted by research company Calico Life Sciences (part of Google's holding company Alphabet) and, this study looked at the notion that longevity can be inherited.

You'd think that having access to family trees spanning 400 million people might lead the researchers to searing conclusions.

Here a sample: "The heritability of human longevity is far less than previously estimated."

The researchers discovered that, in fact, it isn't so much the perfect intermingling of superior genes that indicates longevity.

Instead, it's more likely to be dull old factors such as environment, diet, smoking and drinking, exercise and how much money you have.

If you insist on putting a number as to how much of your longevity might be contributed to by your DNA, it's around 7 percent, say the researchers. Perhaps less.

In previous work, researchers had concluded -- by looking at the longevity of siblings and first cousins -- that perhaps 20 to 30 percent of lifespan could be put down to genetics.

Ah, but then how does that compare with, say, lifespans of spouses? Well, they turn out to be similar too.

As do those of siblings-in-law and first-cousins-in-law. No blood relations there. Which suggests some of those environmental and social factors just might contribute hugely and that DNA doesn't.

What, then, might we be able to rely on in prognosticating how long we'll live? The phenomenon of assortative mating, say the researchers.

"What assortative mating means here is that the factors that are important for life span tend to be very similar between mates," said lead author Graham Ruby.

We marry people like ourselves. (Well, not all of us, I have to tell you.)

I confess I find this research uplifting.

I've always thought life an insane crapshoot, rather than some inherited privilege according to some weird clan of blue bloods.

Now science is suggesting there's more than a little truth to that.

Please live long and prosper.

But don't let the prospering urge lead to a shorter life.

Stress is a killer, you know.

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