How to live longer
Scientists have unlocked some surprising secrets about why some people live longer than others.
This story was originally covered by PRI's The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.
Avoiding stress won't necessarily help people live longer -- neither will marriage nor cod liver oil nor other homemade remedies. "One of the major things we can say from this project is that you don't need a bunch of lists," Leslie Martin, co-author of the book "The Longevity Project," told The Takeaway. "A lot of that stuff really doesn't matter as much as we think it does."
People get caught up in specific remedies, according to Martin, and neglect what's really important. Martin's work, based on an eight-decade study, found one of the most important predictors to longevity is "life patterns -- things like being involved with family and friends, contributing to your community."
Some of the findings seem to contradict traditional knowledge. For example, stress isn't always a bad thing. "Some of the very longest life participants were those who had quite stressful jobs and they worked very hard, sometimes quite late into life, and that really served them well," Martin says. "These were people who tended to be quite committed to what they did, they really found meaning in their jobs, and they cared about what it was that they were doing. And that seems to be an important component."
Marriage also didn't always help. In fact, Martin found that marriage "tends to benefit men" more than women.
What is truly important, Martin found, is connection to others. "Being connected to other people," Martin told The Takeaway, "getting involved in communities, being engaged -- particularly if that engagement involved helping other people -- that was a very strong predictor, that was really important."
"We found that people who hand more connections with others," Martin explained, "whether that was their kids or their friends, actually talking to them or getting together with them regularly -- the more you did that, the better your outlook."
She also goes further: "Then on top of that, if you were doing things that helped them or it could be helping people you don't know, that was an additional benefit."
"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.