Royal Society Publishing

Is there an adverse effect of sons on maternal longevity?

David Cesarini , Erik Lindqvist , Björn Wallace


Recent years have witnessed the emergence of a literature examining the effects of giving birth to sons on postmenopausal longevity in pre-industrial mothers. The original paper in this lineage used a sample (n=375) of Sami mothers from northern Finland and found that, relative to daughters, giving birth to sons substantially reduced maternal longevity. We examine this hypothesis using a similar and a much larger sample (n=930) of pre-industrial Sami women from northern Sweden, who in terms of their demographic, sociocultural and biological conditions, closely resemble the original study population. In contrast to the previously reported results for the Sami, we find no evidence of a negative effect of sons on maternal longevity. Thus, we provide the most compelling evidence to date that the leading result in the literature must be approached with scepticism.


    • Received January 10, 2009.
    • Accepted February 10, 2009.
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