Ever since researching the Blue Zone group, I have been interested in learning more about people who live the longest. The Longevity Project by Drs. Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin builds on the work of Lewis Terman and the famous Terman study to provide the key conclusions about which traits and behaviors lead to longevity. The data and conclusions are based on a select group of over 1,500 middle class Americans born in 1910.
I first heard of the Terman study when reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. Lewis Terman of the interviewed over 1,500 gifted school children in California, their parents, and their teachers. He asked questions to understand the children’s interests, habits, environment, and personality. Almost two decades later, he interviewed the same group of children again. The interviews continued to be detailed in an effort to understand the habits, personality, and various other traits of the participants at this stage in life. Decades later, a large team (including the authors of this book) interviewed those participants who were still living. They analyzed the death certificates and causes of death of those who are decreased. They gathered over eighty years of detailed information on the Terman group to understand which traits and behaviors that lead to long life.
The Longevity Project is a carefully conducted statistical study that pours through millions of pieces of information. The multidiscipline study used a variety of subject matter experts to compliment their analysis and understanding of the data. They performed various calibrations to relate the traits and behaviors of people born in 1910 to the traits and behaviors of those born in the more modern times.
Each chapter of the book focuses on either a key trait or behavior which proved important to longevity. The authors also provide self-assessment tests so the reader can gauge their strength in each area.
I found the book to be well worth reading. It provided me with insight into key traits and behaviors to cultivate in order to protect my long term health. It also helps support the idea that it is a healthy lifestyle that is key, not some specific food or exercise regieme. In addition, several of the important traits and behaviors are quite surprising and often contrary to common wisdom.
Interestingly, the study does not mention specifics of diet such as meat and fat consumption. The participants did not grow up on the frankenfoods of my generation so the influence of under nourished food and toxicity likely did not influence this group as much.
The key conclusion from this book is that those who lived the longest lived healthy throughout their lives. That seems like a major non-surprise, doesn’t it? But when you understand the behaviors and characteristics that actually ended up being “healthy” (resulting in longer life), you’ll realize that some of them really are surprising. And that is the topic of tomorrow’s post.