Within the Helsinki Birth Cohort, men who were tall when they were 7 years old lived for 5 years longer than men who were short. In the present analyses we examined two other influences known to be associated with lifespan: having children and educational attainment. We hypothesized that tall stature, the ability to have children, and high educational attainment reflect three aspects of biological fitness that are acquired during development.
We examined all-cause mortality in 6975 men and 6370 women born in Helsinki during 1934-1944, whose childhood growth, number of children, and educational attainment were recorded.
In contrast to men, tall stature in childhood was not associated with longer lifespan among women. Men and women who had children lived for longer than those who had no children. Among women, having children was only associated with increased lifespan among those whose body mass index increased between 2 and 11 years. High educational attainment was associated with longer lifespan in both sexes. The trends of lower all-cause mortality with higher educational attainment were present in each socio-economic group. The men and women who had children, and attained upper tertiary education, lived for 16 years longer than those who had no children and only basic education.
We suggest that the associations between having children, educational attainment, and lifespan reflect two different aspects of biological fitness that are acquired during early development.