What It Takes to Live Longer

April 27, 2011 Katharina Lochner
personality over time

Myths About Longevity – And the Truth

Two weeks ago, we learned that well-being contributes to longevity. What else is there? Don’t work too hard and avoid stress. Exercise. Think happy thoughts and don’t take life too serious. That’s what we all think we know. But these are myths!

Dr. Howard Friedman from the University of California at Riverside and Dr. Leslie Martin from La Sierra University at Riverside, California studied the lives of over 1,500 American citizens, from childhood until death. One of their key findings is that leading a successful, meaningful, and productive life is a predictor of longevity. This also includes working hard and being persistent and conscientious – and not overly optimistic or cheerful! Furthermore, exercise is a good thing to do, but only if it is done regularly over a long time. And it is not necessary for achieving longevity – it is sufficient to simply be active. This may as well be going to cultural events or gardening. For men, being married seems to be beneficial, whereas women can also live long without being married or after being divorced.

In a video, they summarise their key findings.

They wrote a book: “The Longevity Project”.

There are also a number of summaries on ABC NewsUSA TodayThe Week, and NPR.

The findings are in line with what Martin Seligman considers important for well-being: PERMA – positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, accomplishment. He explains it in his new book, “Flourish”. And well-being, as we recently reported, is associated with longevity as well.

Therefore, factors that make us happy and let us live longer are engaging in meaningful work, accomplishing something, being active, having positive relationships (not necessarily with a spouse), and feeling positive emotions (which does not mean having to be overly cheerful or optimistic).

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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