Monitor on Psychology - December 2011 - (Page 39)
promoting primarily for men who were well-suited to marriage and had a good marriage. For the rest, there were all kinds of complications. Women who got divorced or stayed single often thrived. Even women who were widowed often did exceptionally well. It seemed as if women who got rid of their troublesome husbands stayed healthy. Men who got and stayed divorced were at really high risk for premature mortality. in the book, you break down the research into what you term “Guideposts for health and long life” to help readers understand what your findings mean for them. What are some of your favorite guideposts? The book has a number of selfassessments so you can better understand your own health-relevant trajectories. Good things early on bring more so-called “good luck” later, but it is not luck, and many participants did alter their trajectories. I think simple checklists are worse than useless. We all know lots of things that are healthpromoting — stop substance abuse, stay active, eat right, sleep well, don’t gain weight, make friends — so why aren’t most people healthy? Instead, I advise, “Throw away your lists” because our studies suggest that it is a society with more conscientious and goal-oriented citizens, well-integrated into their communities, that is likely to be important to health and long life. These changes involve slow, step-bystep alterations that unfold across many years. But so does health. For example, connecting with and helping others is more important than obsessing over a rigorous exercise program.
Which guideposts do you focus on most in your own life? As a baby boomer, I naturally think ahead to what I should be doing in the next phase of life. Fortunately, careful consideration is a key part of one of the healthy paths we call “The High Road.” Such an individual is the conscientious sort, with good friends, meaningful work and a happy, responsible marriage. The thoughtful planning and perseverance that such people invest in their careers and their relationships promote long life naturally and automatically, even when challenges arise. Ironically, such prudent, persistent
achievers with stable families and social networks are usually the ones most concerned with what they should be doing to stay healthy. But they are already doing it. n Click here for a video interview with Friedman on The Longevity Project. Click here to see an example of a selfassessment scale of predictors of a long life.
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