Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Counter Intuitive Study on Longevity

There is no easy way to establish strategies for living a long life. This news release adds to our confusion. I proffer the following cautions:

  1. This study contradicts many other studies. When that occurs don't accept the study at face value, it needs to be subject to critical review by many people, and believe me that is far superior to peer review! 
  2. This study is relying on data gathered a very long time ago, when experimental methods were much less refined than today. 
  3. It relates to analysis of "more than 1500 bright children". Small sample, and just what do they mean by "bright". 

The new release does not point to a published paper, the results are being published in book form. I would much prefer that they first publish a series of papers then publish their book. By publishing the book first they are putting out a view on longevity that has not been subject to (1) above.

For myself at least I have to disregard the claims of this news article. Yes I can see elements that I find plausible but in the absence of a series of papers that have been subject to critical review and discussion by a wide range of people it is virtually impossible to know if all their conclusions are valid.

There is a good lesson here in relation to health news. There are also sorts of claims being made about the secrets to longevity. There are no secrets, we're still learning, but obviously a good deal of common sense goes a very long way. Eat well, exercise regularly, and don't go looking for fountains of longevity.


Gail said...

At this stage, it's an opinion more than research but it has raised some points worth exploring further.

I can see that 'happy-go-lucky' types may not live as long because they don't pay enough attention to their health. A 'she'll be right' approach. Many health problems can be prevented with early detection.

I have read some of the work done by John Tickell on a group of our top CEO's health. Some of these guys are rating 20 years younger. Go figure. They work long, long hours, have heaps of responsibility, mega pressure and yet they are super healthy. Now, that's not all of them. We have also seen examples of execs dropping over at 45 with massive heart attacks. But when some execs can achieve great health then you begin to wonder about the claims that people in high pressure jobs die earlier.

In my opinion there is a distinction between stress and pressure. Stress is doing something that you don't like for long periods of time. Pressure is having lots of deadlines and a high degree of complexity. If you love your job then pressure is not such a great problem. I think that stress causes health problems but pressure may be neutral or, as this study suggests, it may be a positive influence on health.

John said...

The stress - presssure issue is very important. Psychologists used to refer to eustress - "good stress". As I like to say, a little stress goes a long way. The issue with CEO's, stress, and pressure, may relate to meaning. Are they working hard because they love the work or are they working hard to maintain some status or pay off bills etc? If you love the work it aint stress. If the work is an end in itself it aint stress, it is a joy.

The delineation here is purpose: if people find intrinsic purpose in their work it is not stressful. Previous studies on longevity very much highlight the issue of have a purpose in life.

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