Monitor on Psychology - December 2011 - (Page 36)

Questionnaire The real secrets to a longer life Howard S. Friedman says that eating vegetables and going to the gym are not as important to our long-term health as having a rich, productive life. by AMy NoVotNEy ost people who live to old age do so not because they have beaten cancer, heart disease, depression or diabetes. Instead, the long-lived avoid serious ailments altogether through a series of steps that often rely on longlasting, meaningful connections with others, says University of California, Riverside, psychologist Howard S. Friedman, PhD, co-author with Leslie m The Monitor spoke to Friedman about some of the most controversial of his findings — including the idea that stress isn’t necessarily all that bad for us. Why is it so important for psychologists to be involved in longevity work? It’s been known for a long time that the traditional biomedical model of disease — that you’re healthy until you get sick — is seriously flawed. Hence the “There is a terrible misunderstanding about stress.... People are being given rotten advice to slow down, take it easy, stop worrying and retire to Florida.” Martin, PhD, of the 2011 book “The Longevity Project.” The book is a compilation of findings from their work on an eight-decade research project of the same name examining the longevity of more than 1,500 children first studied by psychologist Lewis Terman, PhD, in 1921. It’s an attempt to answer the question of who lives longest — and why — based on personality traits, relationships, experiences and career paths. 36 “wellness” movements. Psychologists are probably best positioned to fix this outdated biomedical approach. We are discovering the many ways in which physical well-being and subjective wellbeing are two sides of the same coin. It’s time to bury the flawed distinctions between mental and physical health. This is why I see The Longevity Project as a potential paradigm changer, not a “howto” manual. What drew you to terman’s study? In 1989, I was frustrated with the state of research about individual differences, stress, health and longevity. It was clear that some people were more prone to disease, took longer to recover or died sooner, while others of the same age were able to thrive, but there was no good way to test explanations over the long term. I didn’t much care if stressed students caught the flu at exam time — I wanted to know who was more likely to later develop cancer or heart disease and die before their time. But how to do such a study? Most troublingly, I’d be long dead before the results came in. Then one day it struck me: Build upon the Terman data, extending a study that began in 1921. We planned to spend a year, but more than two decades later, I am still at it. Turns out that a tremendous amount of new information needed to be collected and refined, and the statistical analyses are mind-bogglingly complex. But I love discovering important things about health and longevity that no one ever imagined would be key. And fortunately, persistence turns out to be one of the best predictors of health and long life. terman’s research focused mainly on white children from middleclass families. What effect do you think this has on extrapolation of the findings to other groups? The Terman sample is the only lifelong, continuously detailed, large-scale Monitor on psychology • DeceMber 2011

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Monitor on Psychology - December 2011

Monitor on Psychology - December 2011
President’s Column
From the CEO
Willpower Pioneer Wins $100,000 Grawemeyer Prize
Single-Sex Schooling Called Into Question by Prominent Researchers
Maternal Depression Stunts Childhood Growth, Research Suggests
For Boys, Sharing May Seem Like a Waste of Time
Good News for Postdoc Applicants
In Brief
Treatment Guideline Development Now Under Way
Government Relations Update
Psychologist Named Va Mental Health Chief
The Limits of Eyewitness Testimony
Judicial Notebook
Random Sample
Time Capsule
Deconstructing Suicide
A Focus on Interdisciplinarity
A Time of ‘Enormous Change’
The Science Behind Team Science
Good Science Requires Good Conflict
A New Paradigm of Care
Speaking of Education
Science Directions
New Labels, New Attitudes?
Psychologist Profile
Early Career Psychology
Unintended Consequences
Better Options for Troubled Teens
Saving Lives, One Organ at a Time
New Journal Editors
APA News
Division Spotlight
Guidelines for the Conduct of President-Elect Nominations and Elections
American Psychological Foundation

Monitor on Psychology - December 2011