Human longevity: The grandmother effect

  title={Human longevity: The grandmother effect},
  author={Kristen Hawkes},
  • K. Hawkes
  • Published 11 March 2004
  • Medicine
  • Nature
Why do women live long past the age of child-bearing? Contrary to common wisdom, this phenomenon is not new, and is not due to support for the elderly. Rather, grannies have a lot to offer their grandchildren. 

The Grandmother Effect and the Uniqueness of the Human Aging Phenotype

It is contention that human and non-human primate life histories have evolved essential differences and that these should be addressed in studies comparing aging in humans and chimpanzees.

Commentary : Life historical perspectives on human reproductive aging

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Widowhood, family size, and post-reproductive Mortality: a comparative Analysis of three populations in Nineteenth-Century Europe

It is hypothesized that the death of a spouse is a stressful event with long-term consequences for health, especially for women with small children, and raising children under adverse circumstances can have long-lasting, harmful effects on a mother’s health.

The evolution of the human menopause

Female lifespan is increasing in most countries worldwide, principally due to decreased infection and maternal mortality, and chronic diseases that affect millions of women are cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cancer, and dementia.

Life History Evolution: What Does a Menopausal Killer Whale Do?

Testing evolutionary theories of menopause

A study based on a remarkably complete dataset from The Gambia that provides quantitative estimates for key parameters for the theoretical model, which were then used to assess the actual effects on fitness and provide important support for the hypothesized evolutionary significance of grandmothers.

Women’s Health in the Post-menopausal Age

An evolutionary analysis of trends provides a valuable perspective on how the health consequences of an extended post-reproductive life span for modern women are affected by changes in culture that have outpaced biological evolution.

Reevaluating the grandmother hypothesis.

  • Aja Watkins
  • Psychology
    History and philosophy of the life sciences
  • 2021
A formal model is developed and used to respond to a common objection to the grandmother hypothesis: that human fathers are better suited to be allomothers due to their physical strength and a high incentive to invest in their own children.

Menopause: why does fertility end before life?

How menopause and prolonged lifespan might be explained by evolutionary theory is discussed, and some angles for future research are highlighted.

Menopause – natural selection or modern disease?

  • N. PanayA. Fenton
  • Education
    Climacteric : the journal of the International Menopause Society
  • 2015
In order to unravel the ‘ menopause conundrum ’ , it is necessary to explore the causes, consequences and attitudes towardsMenopause from anthropological, evolutionary, historical and modern perspectives.



Reproduction and longevity among the British peerage: the effect of frailty and health selection

  • G. DoblhammerJ. Oeppen
  • Economics
    Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
  • 2003
It is shown that in natural fertility populations the relationship between fertility and late–life mortality cannot be studied correctly without considering the effects of differences in health and of mortality selection during childbearing ages because these two effects lead to a dampening of the true relationship.

Grandmother hypothesis and primate life histories.

  • H. Alvarez
  • Biology
    American journal of physical anthropology
  • 2000
The shape of the argument herein demonstrates the utility of life history theory for solving problems of adaptive evolution in female life history traits, with consequences for broader arguments regarding human evolution.

Broken Limits to Life Expectancy

The evidence presented in the Policy Forum suggests otherwise, and Mortality experts have repeatedly asserted that life expectancy is close to an ultimate ceiling; these experts have been proven wrong.

Grandmothers and the evolution of human longevity

  • K. Hawkes
  • Biology
    American journal of human biology : the official journal of the Human Biology Council
  • 2003
Using modern humans and chimpanzees to represent, respectively, genus Homo and australopithecines, two corollaries of the grandmother hypothesis are focused on: that ancestral age‐specific fertility declines persisted in the authors' genus, while 2) senescence in other aspects of physiological performance slowed down.

Rethinking the evolutionary theory of aging: Transfers, not births, shape senescence in social species

  • Ronald Lee
  • Economics
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
  • 2003
The formal theory offered here, age-specific selective pressure on mortality depends on a weighted average of remaining fertility (the classic effect) and remaining intergenerational transfers to be made to others.

Fitness benefits of prolonged post-reproductive lifespan in women

It is shown that women with a prolonged post-reproductive lifespan have more grandchildren, and hence greater fitness, in pre-modern populations of both Finns and Canadians, and that rates of female mortality accelerate as their offspring terminate reproduction.

Grandmothering and the evolution of homo erectus.

An alternative scenario is developed, that climate-driven adjustments in female foraging and food sharing practices, possibly involving tubers, favored significant changes in ancestral life history, morphology, and ecology leading to the appearance, spread and persistence of H. erectus.

Regional Model Life Tables and Stable Populations

Regional Model Life Tables and Stable Populations. By Ansley J. Coale and Paul Demeny. Princeton, University Press; London, Oxford University Press, 1966. xiii, 43, 871 p. 812″. £8.

Primate life histories and socioecology

This first collection of its kind, the contributors to "Primate Life Histories" provide the first systematic attempt to understand how primate life histories influence behaviour and vice versa.

Demography, female life history, and reproductive profiles among the chimpanzees of Mahale

The chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania, have been studied for more than 34 yr on the basis of individual identification and standardized attendance records to derive demographic data on disease, death, and female transfer.