Electronic supplementary material: tables, simulation code and data from Selection bias in studies of human reproduction-longevity trade-offs

2017-11-16T13:54:07Z (GMT) by Samuli Helle
A shorter lifespan as a potential cost of high reproductive effort in humans has intrigued researchers for more than a century. However, the results have been inconclusive so far and despite strong theoretical expectations we do not currently have compelling evidence for the longevity costs of reproduction. Using Monte Carlo simulation, it is shown here that a common practice in human reproduction-longevity studies using historical data (the most relevant data sources for this question), the omission of women who died prior to menopausal age from the analysis, results in severe underestimation of the potential underlying trade-off between reproduction and lifespan. In other words, assuming that such a trade-off is expressed also during reproductive years, the strength of the trade-off between reproduction and lifespan is progressively weakened when women dying during reproductive ages are sequentially and non-randomly excluded from the analysis. In cases of small sample sizes (e.g. few hundreds of observations), this selection bias by reducing statistical power may even partly explain the null results commonly found in this field. Future studies in this field should thus apply statistical approaches that account for or avoid selection bias in order to recover reliable effect size estimates between reproduction and longevity.