Survival analysis of longevity in siblings

Xin Song, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Do siblings of centenarians tend to have longer life spans? To answer this question, life spans of 184 siblings for 42 centenarians have been evaluated. Two important questions have been addressed in analyzing the sibling data. First, a standard needs to be established, to which the life spans of 184 siblings are compared. In this report, an external reference population is constructed from the U.S. life tables. Its estimated mortality rates are treated as baseline hazards from which the relative mortality of the siblings are estimated. Second, the standard survival models which assume independent observations are invalid when correlation within family exists, underestimating the true variance. Methods that allow correlations are illustrated by three different methods. First, the cumulative relative excess mortality between siblings and their comparison group is calculated and used as an effective graphic tool, along with the Product Limit estimator of the survival function. The variance estimator of the cumulative relative excess mortality is adjusted for the potential within family correlation using Taylor linearization approach. Second, approaches that adjust for the inflated variance are examined. They are adjusted one-sample log-rank test using design effect originally proposed by Rao and Scott in the correlated binomial or Poisson distribution setting and the robust variance estimator derived from the log-likelihood function of a multiplicative model. Nether of these two approaches provide correlation estimate within families, but the comparison with the comparison with the standard remains valid under dependence. Last, using the frailty model concept, the multiplicative model, where the baseline hazards are known, is extended by adding a random frailty term that is based on the positive stable or the gamma distribution. Comparisons between the two frailty distributions are performed by simulation. Based on the results from various approaches, it is concluded that the siblings of centenarians had significant lower mortality rates as compared to their cohorts. The frailty models also indicate significant correlations between the life spans of the siblings.

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Recommended Citation

Song, Xin, "Survival analysis of longevity in siblings" (2001). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3027654.