- Dr Laura Stix
Longevity: What Can You Do To Live Longer?
I accidentally came across this article, and though it's a few years old, the results of the 20-year long study produced some interesting findings worth sharing.
Called "The Longevity Project", the study followed children across their lives, collecting information that included family histories and relationships, teacher and parent ratings of personality, hobbies, pet ownership, job success, education levels, military service and numerous other details. One of the most amazing findings was that personality characteristics and social relations from childhood can predict one's risk of dying decades later.
"One of the findings that really astounds people, including us, is that the Longevity Project participants who were the most cheerful and had the best sense of humor as kids lived shorter lives, on average, than those who were less cheerful and joking. It was the most prudent and persistent individuals who stayed healthiest and lived the longest. We found that as a general life-orientation, too much of a sense that 'everything will be just fine' can be dangerous because it can lead one to be careless about things that are important to health and long life. Prudence and persistence, however, led to a lot of important benefits for many years. It turns out that happiness is not a root cause of good health. Instead, happiness and health go together because they have common roots."
While diet and exercise are a piece of the health picture, take a moment now to review how your own character and social environment might be directing your health path:
Are you involved and committed to your job?
Do you invest your time in friends and relationships?
Do you associate with health-conscious people?
Do you replace people with pets?
Do you help others?
Read some of the research findings below and consider what small steps and actions you can take to start gradually reshaping yourself into a healthier future.
Marriage may be good for men's health, but doesn't really matter for women. Steadily married men – those who remained in long-term marriages – were likely to live to age 70 and beyond; fewer than one-third of divorced men were likely to live to 70; and men who never married outlived those who remarried and significantly outlived those who divorced – but they did not live as long as married men.
Being divorced is much less harmful to women's health. Women who divorced and did not remarry lived nearly as long as those who were steadily married.
"Don't work too hard, don't stress," doesn't work as advice for good health and long life. Those subjects who were the most involved and committed to their jobs did the best. Continually productive men and women lived much longer than their more laid-back comrades.
Starting formal schooling too early – being in first grade before age 6 – is a risk factor for earlier mortality. Having sufficient playtime and being able to relate to classmates is very important for children.
Playing with pets is not associated with longer life. Pets may sometimes improve well-being, but they are not a substitute for friends.
Combat veterans are less likely to live long lives, but surprisingly the psychological stress of war itself is not necessarily a major health threat. Rather, it is a cascade of unhealthy patterns that sometimes follows. Those who find meaning in a traumatic experience and are able to reestablish a sense of security about the world are usually the ones who return to a healthy pathway.
People who feel loved and cared for report a better sense of well-being, but it doesn't help them live longer. The clearest health benefit of social relationships comes from being involved with and helping others. The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become – healthy or unhealthy.