Tuesday, June 28, 2011
In the 1920s psychologist Lewis Terman began studying 1500 ten-year-old bright boys and girls. His extensive data collection included data from the children, teachers and families. Researchers have continued to periodically collect data and study these participants. Most are now deceased. Dr. Howard Friedman and Dr. Leslie Martin are the current custodians of the research. Their book, The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Eight-Decade Study
, reports on their research and how it compares with other research on health and longevity.
While some studies have found that optimism and cheerfulness are correlated with longevity, The Longevity Study found that these were not correlated with longevity and at extremes were negatively correlated with longevity. The reason appears to be that people who are very optimistic or very cheerful tend to take more risks and not attend to health issues as conscientiously as others.
What the study found appears to be the most causal psychological factor for longevity is "conscientiousness." Conscientiousness involves a combination of persistence and not taking undue risks. Contributing to the phenomenon is that conscientious people tend to have more stable careers, more stable marriages, take better care of their health, and have a sense of purpose and career and life satisfaction. You might say longevity belongs more to the conscientious tortoise than to the carefree, risk-taking hare. Happiness appears to be a byproduct of successful living rather than a cause on longevity.
The study also found many traits and events affect men and women differently. For example, when divorced, men who were worriers fared better than men who were not worriers. This is due to worrisome divorced men paying more attention to health and other needs than other divorced men. This effect was not the case for women. Thus, traits that normally are not desirable can be helpful in certain circumstances.
Anti-Aging Psychologist interviewed Dr. Martin on Ageless Lifestyles®. The 50-minute podcast of the interview is at www.webtalkradio.net and summarized and archived on www.AgelessLifestyles.com. Dr. Martin is a psychology professor at La Sierra University in California. Dr. Friedman is a psychology professor at the University of California—Riverside. Further information on their research is at www.HowardSFriedman.com. Dr. Brickey is President of the Ageless Lifestyles® Institute. His websites include www.DrBrickey.com and www.Anti-Aging-Speaker.com.
Michael Brickey, Ph.D.