I am looking for any studies that involved twins that would show how much lifespan can be increased by living healthily, and how much it depends on lifestyle rather than genetics.

  • 1
    Hello Matas, the question in the title is not really answerable, as it is too broad. It would need to define what is a "healthy lifestyle", confirming that a person has followed it throughout their whole life, etc.. The "twin studies" one in the body is answerable and interesting, but it is not equivalent to the one in the title. My suggestion is to edit the whole question to be about genetic vs. nongenetic contribution to lifespan, else I would VTC as too broad.
    – rumtscho
    Dec 15, 2015 at 16:13
  • @rumtscho done. Dec 15, 2015 at 16:22
  • 1
    @rumtscho - As I read it, the question isn't about the genetics/lifestyle, but "I need studies on twins that compare lifestyle to genetics". Looking for the research, rather than the outcome.
    – JohnP
    Dec 15, 2015 at 17:46

1 Answer 1


A few countries have large long-term databases and studies based on this data:

There are also lots of review articles on the subject, for example Genomics of human longevity.

Most of the studies seem to show an impact of about 20 to 33 percent from genetics, for example from the first study:

The heritability of longevity was estimated to be 0.26 for males and 0.23 for females

and the second:

Over the total age range examined, a maximum of around one third of the variance in longevity is attributable to genetic factors, and almost all of the remaining variance is due to nonshared, individual specific environmental factors.

and the review:

Heritability studies comparing the concordance of lifespan in monozygous and dizygous twins estimated a 25–30% genetic contribution to human lifespan variation

Basically, this means that they compared identical to fraternal twins, and found that the variability in lifespan between identical twins was less than that of fraternal twins. When also taking into account that fraternal twins share an average of 50% of their genetic material, the influence of genetics appears to be around a quarter to a third. The second paper I linked to above has some explanations on how they calculate this and what the numbers mean.

Drawing conclusions from twin studies to the overall role of genetics is not a completely exact science1, but this is probably the closest we can get to putting a number on this, I think.

1) There may be other reasons for this, for example identical twins choosing to lead similar lifestyles more often. This is mentioned in the second paper: "It is possible, for example, that this difference in risk is attributable to more similar environmental circumstances of MZ [identical] than of DZ [fraternal] pairs, rather than to their differences in genetic similarity."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.