DNA could give clues about how long you can expect to live

Scientists have said they can predict whether someone can expect to live longer than average or die sooner by examining their DNA.

A team of researchers in Scotland has produced a scoring system to analyse the combined effect of genetic variations that influence lifespan.

People who score in the top 10% of the population might expect to live up to five years longer than those who score in the lowest 10%, they said.

Experts at the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute looked at genetic data from more than 500,000 people, as well as records of their parents’ lifespan.

They said they pinpointed 12 areas of the human genome as having a significant impact on lifespan, including five sites that have not been reported before.

Experts said the DNA sites with the greatest impact on overall lifespan were those that have previously been linked to fatal illnesses, including heart disease and smoking-related conditions.

Dr Peter Joshi, an AXA Fellow at the institute, said: “If we take 100 people at birth, or later, and use our lifespan score to divide them into 10 groups, the top group will live five years longer than the bottom, on average.”

The researchers said they had hoped to discover genes that directly influence how quickly people age.

If such genes exist, their effects were too small to be detected in this study, they said.

Paul Timmers, a PhD student at the institute, said “We found genes that affect the brain and the heart are responsible for most of the variation in lifespan.”

The research is being published in the journal eLife.