Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Could Iceland's High Life Expectancy Be Caused By Good Genetics?

World Life Expectancies (Iceland 83.1)

Iceland has one of the worlds toughest climates to live in. Despite this, the people there live longer than just about every other place on Earth. The reason? Good genetics. The people who live the longest usually have a family history of longer lives. Kari Stefansson investgated this phenomenon by collecting genetics information on about 1/3 of Iceland's population. He and his company, DeCode Genetics then compared the genetic information from those 90 and up. What they found is that these people were more related to each other than the control groups. What they think happened is the harsh life of Iceland in the past, (unheated homes, agricultural hardship, and widespread poverty) made it difficult to survive. Those that did survive then passed on those hardy genes down to the next generation. Adding to this that people who die young in Iceland stilll drink the same water and breathe the same air, so there must be another cause, and Stefansson thinks it is in the genetics.

This article stood out to me because it shows how good genes passed on through generations can begin to add up. The articles make note that the good genetics probably started with the vikings. In the articles there is an interactive world expectancy map, and what I found interesting from scrolling over a couple of countries is the only other country with 83 years as the expectancy is Japan, another island nation. So, maybe not so much now, but in years past these could have been isolated populations where there wasn't as much genetic variation allowing the good genes to accumulate over time.


  1. While the people of Iceland have genes that relate to longevity, it is interesting that they are not studying issues that may be rising from the small gene pool. The lack of genetic variation from the introduction of new genes into the population would be potentially dangerous in the event of disease or any attempts in elimination of genes that are unfavorable.

  2. This falls in line with Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection where the most fit individuals will pass down more advantageous traits, in this case age