Predicting healthy aging

May 27, 2009 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

One of the most comprehensive and longest longitudinal studies of adult development — certainly of adult American males — is the Harvard Grant Study. Among its findings:

There are “seven major factors that predict healthy aging, both physically and psychologically,”

  • Employing mature adaptions, e.g. “altruism, humor, anticipation (looking ahead and planning for future discomfort), suppression (a conscious decision to postpone attention to an impulse of conflict, to be addressed in good time), and sublimation (finding outlets for feelings, like putting aggression into sport, or lust into courtship)”;
  • Education;
  • Stable marriage;
  • Not smoking;
  • Not abusing alcohol;
  • Some exercise;
  • Healthy weight.

Half of the men studied with at least five of these protective factors were classified as “happy-well” at age 80, and 7.5% percent were classified as “sad-sick.” In contrast, not a single man who had three or fewer of these factors by the age of 50 could be classified as “happy-well” at age 80. And controlling for physical fitness and health, “the men who had three or fewer protective factors were three times as likely to be dead at 80 as those with four or more factors.”

This information comes from Joshua Wolf Shenk’s lengthy and fascinating article for the Atlantic Monthly, titled “What Makes Us Happy?

What has no bearing on our ability “to work and love as we grow old”? Some surprises: “Cholesterol levels at age 50 have nothing to do with health in old age.”

Also, “Reguar exercise in college predicted late-life mental health better than did physical health.”

Fun fact: President John F. Kennedy was a subject in the Grant Study.

More here.

play, think…
J.R. Atwood

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The (barefoot) revolution, cont. “As cost of sports rise, students balk at fees”

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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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