Well-Being

The Long Haul: Here’s How to Make It

February 18, 2014

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The single strongest social predictor of a long life is a strong social network. / iStock

The single strongest social predictor of a long life is a strong social network. / iStock

ALERT: NO NEED to acquire a spouse or a dog, or to see that glass as half full. Better to choose work that you find challenging and enjoyable, and exert yourself at it.

Longevity has been linked unexpectedly to conscientiousness — the qualities of a prudent, persistent and well-organized person — by an eight-decade study following a single set of more than 1,000 participants.

 Conscientious people are more likely to live healthy lifestyles — from wearing seatbelts, not smoking or drinking to excess and “taking medication as prescribed,” to choosing/creating healthier relationships and work situations. Most surprising to researchers, these people are “less prone to a host of diseases,” linked to levels of chemicals such as serotonin in their brains.

Optimism, conversely, has downsides, from failing to back up computer files to not preparing for for setbacks and bad news, leading to increased levels of unhealthy stress.

In “The Longevity Project” (Howard Friedman & Leslie Martin, Hudson Street Press, 2011), the researchers advise above all: Spend your time working at a job you like and do well —  “challenges even if stressful are also a link” to longevity.

One quirky conclusion: The connection between marriage and longevity depends more on the man’s happiness. And a couple’s “mutual compatibility” is a strong factor in their children’s longevity. The single strongest social predictor of a long life is a strong social network — widows outlive both widowers and still-married women!

                                                                                        – Mary Carpenter



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