Humans seem to be in a constant search for the fountain of youth. Some embark on quests that are healthier than others, but now it appears that one way to increase our longevity is through having a better attitude about life in general.
This seems like a healthy pursuit indeed.
Researchers have concluded that there is a genetic predisposition to having a cheerful attitude, and that tendency is one determinant of lifespan. Nir Barzilai, one of the researchers out of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, believed that when he studied centenarians he would find a preponderance of curmudgeons. Instead he was surprised to find people who had a generally positive outlook on life. I am not certain why he had that expectation, possibly because of a belief that people who live extremely long lives are hanging on out of stubbornness and persistence. It certainly seems intuitive to me that those who are more joyful in their lives would have a better chance of sticking around a bit longer.
The study was conducted with a specific population of 500 Ashkenazi Jews who were age 95 and older and 700 of their children. The genetic similarity of the members of this group to each other made it easy to ascertain why some of them lived long lives and others did not. Another genetically based reason that this population tends to have better longevity is their cellular repair mechanisms. Of note, was that these centenarians don’t necessarily live particularly healthy lifestyles compared to the general population.
It turns out that an individual’s personality, which is colored by some genetic factors, is responsible for many of their behaviors and can influence their health. Those studied were an average age of 97.5 and generally felt that laughter was a crucial part of their life. These elderly individuals also reported having a large social network and were willing and able to express their emotions rather than repressing them.
It wasn’t clear if these subjects had always maintained a sunny disposition or if they developed one later in life but it was apparent that there is a direct link between being outgoing, positive and engaged in life, and living long into your golden years. Yet another reason that finding and maintaining happiness in your life in a goal worth pursuing.
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