There are no magic potions on offer here, but many of the findings are provocative. The best childhood predictor of longevity, it turns out, is a quality best defined as conscientiousness: "the often complex pattern of persistence, prudence, hard work, close involvement with friends and communities" that produces a well-organized person who is "somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree."While the remainder of the WSJ article proceeds to poke holes in The Longevity Project's thesis, the observations that conscientiousness and whether or not your parent's divorced make intuitive sense. Consider that conscientiousness drives people to be more detail-oriented about their lives and to be more risk-averse. Consider also that a parental divorce exposes children to a whole host of adverse consequences, most of which result in some terrible pathologies, such as lower academic achievement, early sexual activity, higher crime rates, lower overall lifetime earnings, and greater exposure to disease. In other words, family dissolution is akin to throwing a boulder into a lake; it's ripples extend far and wide and affect those closest to the point of impact the most, even those purportedly resilient children.
[H]aving a high IQ didn't seem to play a direct role in longevity. Neither did going on to an advanced degree. The authors suggest that persistence and the ability to navigate life's challenges were better predictors of longevity. Some of the findings in "The Longevity Project" are surprising, others are troubling. Cheerful children, alas, turned out to be shorter-lived than their more sober classmates. The early death of a parent had no measurable effect on children's life spans or mortality risk, but the long-term health effects of broken families were often devastating. Parental divorce during childhood emerged as the single strongest predictor of early death in adulthood. The grown children of divorced parents died almost five years earlier, on average, than children from intact families. The causes of death ranged from accidents and violence to cancer, heart attack and stroke. Parental break-ups remain, the authors say, among the most traumatic and harmful events for children.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
The Key To Longevity
A recent book, reviewed here in the WSJ, claims that longevity appears to be less rooted in IQ or a high-powered degree and more in conscientiousness and your parent's relationship history: