Lifespans of twins: Does zygosity matter?

Jacob Hjelmborg, Pia Larsen, Jaakko Kaprio, Matt McGue, Thomas Scheike, Philip Hougaard, Kaare Christensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Studies with twins provide fundamental insights to lifespans of humans. We aim to clarify if monozygotic and dizygotic twin individuals differ in lifespan, that is, if zygosity matters. We investigate whether a possible difference in mortality after infancy between zygosities is stable in different age cohorts, and whether the difference remains when twins with unknown zygosity are taken into account. Further, we compare the distribution of long-livers, that is, the upper-tail of the lifespan distribution, between monozygotic and same-sex dizygotic twin individuals. The Danish Twin Registry provides a nationwide cohort of 109,303 twins born during 1870 to 1990 with valid vital status. Standard survival analysis is used to compare mortality in monozygotic and dizygotic twin individuals and twin individuals with unknown zygosity. The mortality of monozygotic and dizygotic twin individuals differs slightly after taking into consideration effects of birth- and age-cohorts, gender differences, and that twins are paired. However, no substantial nor systematic differences remain when taking twins with unknown zygosity into account. Further, the distribution of long-livers is very similar by zygosity, suggesting the same mortality process. The population-based and oldest twin cohort ever studied suggests that monozygotic and dizygotic twins have similar lifespans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number166
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: J.K. has been supported by the Academy of Finland (grants 308248 & 312073).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Age-stratification
  • Cumulative incidence curves
  • Lifespan
  • Long-livers
  • Mortality
  • Twins
  • Unknown zygosity
  • Zygosity


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