Twins Live Longer Than Everyone Else, Study Suggests, Because Companionship Is Important
If you're one of the privileged few who can use #twinning unironically, I bear glad tidings: According to a study from the University of Washington, twins live longer than everyone else — not out of some innate genetic superiority, but by virtue of their built-in bestie. For everyone else who spent their childhoods wishing for a Mary-Kate to their Ashley, a Dylan to their Cole, take solace in the fact that at least our loneliness will be literally short-lived.
In a paper published earlier this summer in PLOS One, researchers looked at data from nearly 3,000 same-sex twin pairs in the Danish Twin Registry, which maintains information dating all the way back to 1870. To make sure people who lived an entire lifespan were analyzed, the study only included twins born between 1870 and 1900 and ruled out those who died before age 10. When they compared these twins' mortality rates with those of the general Danish population, researchers turned up a fascinating finding: Twins have lower mortality rates throughout their lives, particularly identical men.
"We find that at nearly every age, identical twins survive at higher proportions than fraternal twins, and fraternal twins are a little higher than the general population," lead author David Sharrow said, according to Science Daily.
Male and female twins were both "protected" against extrinsic causes of death — accidents, behaviors, and so on — but male, identical twins also had lower mortality rates in old age. They died eventually, of course, but male twins lived longer overall. The effect hit its peak in their mid-40s, when male twins were six percentage points ahead of the rest of the population. (As Science Daily explains, the percentage points mean that "if out of 100 boys in the general population, 84 were still alive at age 45, then for twins that number was 90.") For women, the peak was in their early 60s, with a 10 percentage point advantage.
Sharrow and the paper's co-author, James Anderson, believe it all comes down to social support, which is frequently implicated in longevity. Research has shown that people with quality relationships aren't just happier; they also live longer than their lonely peers. Most people have to work to form these kinds of relationships, but if you have a twin, you're born with a best friend ready to pressure you into making healthier life choices.
This could be why identical male twins live longer than other men; as Sharrow explained in Science Daily, "Males may partake in more risky behaviors, so men may have more room to benefit from having a protective other — in this case a twin — who can pull them away for those behaviors." For everyone else, this usually comes in the form of a spouse; it's well-known that married people live longer as well.
If you're unmarried and twin-less like me, I guess we'll just have to start making friends, stat, or resign ourselves to enjoying our short time on earth. Yay?
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