Thank God for Science

Some Forms of Stress and Cynicism May Be Life Extenders

A new study that followed the activities of 1500 Californians over 80 years has drawn some interesting conclusions from the findings.  A couple of the more surprising results of the study is the view that not all stress is bad, in fact it may be beneficial for longer life, while the “what-me-worry?” crowd may be more predisposed to an earlier death than those who are not.

“The Longevity Project” was a joint effort by psychology professors Leslie Martin and Howard Friedman that gathered data from the late Stanford University psychologist Louis Terman and later researchers who had been monitoring 1,500 bright children, beginning in 1921 from the time they were 10 years old.  The findings tend to debunk some of the axioms many have been living by and if Martin and Friedman’s findings are valid, some of us may have shortened our lives by subscribing to such beliefs.

The first shocker was that stress in and of itself is not always a threat to good health necessarily if it is related to a job, hobby or other activities that you essentially find rewarding.

As it turns out, there’s good stress and bad stress. If you’ve got a job where your boss is out to get you or you’re experiencing sexual harassment, that’s bad stress. But if your stress arises out of a job that you love, then the stress won’t hurt you, Martin says. In fact, some of the people who lived the longest were those who were completely absorbed by their careers, working long hours. The key to good job stress is to find work that engages you and makes you feel productive.   SOURCE 

The other startling revelation from the study is that happy-go-lucky types are less likely to live longer.  That bubbly personality type at work, family gatherings or church socials are more susceptible to an early death because their optimism may evolve from ignorance and over-trusting.  This used to describe my life in a much earlier time but I think I can safely say this not my state of mind anymore.

“People tend to think of cheerfulness as good, but we found exactly the opposite,” Martin says. “Cheerful kids lived shorter lives. That was a big shocker.”  Overly optimistic people tend not to be as careful as those who have a more serious take on life. “If you’re one of those people who expects things will always turn out great, you may benefit from listening to the perspectives of others,” Martin says. “Awareness is a key component. And being a little more prepared and a little more risk-averse.”  

So the key here, for me at least, is to worry less about the stress energy from expressing my political views I blog on and to continue to be a charming, elderly cynic.  This alleviates an underlying concern I’ve had to a degree that I perhaps am, 1) too zealous in projecting my views among friends, acquaintances and especially family and 2), that I was becoming too much of a grumpy old man.  Thank God for scientific research that removes self-doubt.
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For those who are elderly and single but have a pet,  there’s an eye opener too in this study for you that could make a difference in your healthy longevity.  Check out what this is in Linda Carroll’s MSN report, “Cheery people die sooner, and more longevity secrets.” 


ADDITIONAL READING:

The Longevity Project: A New Way of Thinking About Healthy Life Extension

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5 responses to “Thank God for Science

  1. Nice summary of that very interesting study Larry. Your commitment to blogging is inspiring. And that picture is worth a 1,000 words!

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