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Issue 15 Summer 2016

Twins live longer lives thanks to their special bonds*

Zygosity testing

The special bond between twins may contribute to them living longer than singletons, according to new research.

A recent study is the first to look at what being a twin means for life expectancy. Analysis shows that twins have lower mortality rates for both sexes throughout their lives.

"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," said lead researcher, David Sharrow, from the University of Washington.

The researchers believe their results reflect the benefits of social support, similar to the marriage protection effect. Many studies have suggested that being married acts as a social safety net that provides psychological and health benefits.

But one question surrounding the so-called marriage protection hypothesis, according to Sharrow, is whether marriage really makes you healthier, or whether healthier people are just more likely to get married (or join a community group or have a large circle of friends, which are also tied to better health).

"Looking at twins removes that effect, because people can’t choose to be a twin,” Sharrow said. “Our results lend support to a body of literature that shows that social relationships are beneficial to health outcomes."

The researchers analysed data of nearly 3000 twins who had passed away and compared their ages at death with data from the overall population. The findings were published recently in the Public Library of Science Journal.

*This is an extract from an article by Hannah Hickey in the University of Washington's Today Enews. The full article can be viewed here

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