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The Key to a Long Life: Conscientious Habits
Old 04-09-2011, 11:15 AM   #1
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The Key to a Long Life: Conscientious Habits

I remember hearing about the Terman project -- where they studied 1,500 children born around 1910 and collected data on them during their lives. Two authors have recently written a book based on this data.

"Most people who live to an old age do so not because they have beaten cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease; rather, the long-lived have mostly avoided serious ailments altogether," according to Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin, in their recent book, "The Longevity Project."

"The best childhood personality predictor of longevity was conscientiousness--the qualities of a prudent, persistent, well organized person," according to the two professors (he at the University of California--Riverside, and she at La Sierra University). "Conscientiousness . . . also turned out to be the best personality predictor of long life when measured in adulthood."

The Key to a Long Life: Conscientious Habits - Yahoo! News


So, if you're particularly conscientious, you may want to factor living a few years longer into your FIRE calculations.

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Old 04-09-2011, 11:55 AM   #2
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So, if you're particularly conscientious...
DW refers to me as that "anal SOB" ..

Does that count? ...
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Old 04-09-2011, 01:37 PM   #3
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Reason #2 is obviously bogus --- "certain chemicals" indeed. I think they guessed at reason #1, noticed that it predicted that that their long lifers would tend to succumb to diseases which prudence doesn't protect one from, then looked at the evidence and found the prediction was wrong.
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The book presents three reasons why conscientious people live longer:
1. They are more likely to obey the rules, protecting their health, and not engaging in risky behaviors such as smoking or driving without a seat belt. If a doctor tells them to take a medicine, they take every prescribed dose.
2. "Conscientious individuals are less prone to a whole host of diseases, not just those caused by dangerous habits," they found. "It appears likely that conscientious and unconscientious people have different levels of certain chemicals in their brains."
...
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Old 04-09-2011, 01:54 PM   #4
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My thoughts...long lifers inherited good genes and didn't screw them up with bad habits. Just saying...
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Old 04-09-2011, 03:27 PM   #5
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Genes definitely are a factor, for the average person, genes probably add or cut 3-5 years from their life. For the outliers, genes can cut up to all of a persons life, or perhaps add 8-10 years.

Which is why genes get attention, unlike habits, they currently cannot be fixed, yet they can have an extreme and unavoidable effect in limited cases.

Medicine itself is not useless though, while habit will prevent nearly all avoidable diseases/conditions, freak chance still exists, and for that, medicine is quite useful.
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Old 04-09-2011, 04:43 PM   #6
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The real key: choose your parents well, preferably with long life spans.
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Old 04-09-2011, 08:10 PM   #7
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There are no guarantees in life. I think that it is only commonsense that exemplary health habits (plus genetics to some extent) can stack the deck in your favor, though.
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Old 04-09-2011, 08:19 PM   #8
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Maybe instead of only Nature vs Nurture one can say "Nature, Nurture and Frame of Mind (habits)" all play a part. It makes common sense, if one does something which is good for survival and a long life, why not continue to do that again and again?

Yet, the challenge is that not everyone goes by healthy habits. (Myself included) exercise and diet, for example. It's pretty much a given, if you eat right and exercise that can prolong your life. Yet, for many that is such a challenge to accomplish.
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Old 04-10-2011, 07:04 AM   #9
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This reminds me of the amazing marshmallow test:

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Originally Posted by omni550 View Post
"The best childhood personality predictor of longevity was conscientiousness--the qualities of a prudent, persistent, well organized person,"
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Old 04-10-2011, 10:19 AM   #10
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If i thought I would have lived this long I would have taken batter care of myself
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Old 04-10-2011, 11:35 AM   #11
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You can probably shorten your life with lack of conscientiousness (I think the study probably reflects that more than anything else); but we all know people who lived "healthy lives" and who in spite of doing everything "right" died of illnesses before their time.
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Old 04-10-2011, 11:45 AM   #12
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This study makes me feel guilty! I am working on being more conscientious.

My (dear, departed) mother was very conscientious about most aspects of life, and a stern devotee to "A place for everything, and everything in its place" housekeeping. She lived to age 98, minus two weeks.

I have been reorganizing my kitchen cabinets and closets this week, as always trying to emulate her conscientious housekeeping habits. I'll probably never be willing to emulate her conscientious cleaning, though, which she attributed to her ("scrubbing") Dutch ancestry. Nobody could make a kitchen floor shine like my mother. On the other hand, I'm pretty good with things like showing up on time, paying my bills, and so on.

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You can probably shorten your life with lack of conscientiousness (I think the study probably reflects that more than anything else); but we all know people who lived "healthy lives" and who in spite of doing everything "right" died of illnesses before their time.
Yes, no matter how much we try to live a good, healthy life, any of us could be struck down by cancer or other illnesses at any time, sadly enough.
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Old 04-10-2011, 12:33 PM   #13
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I scored a 32 on the questions.

Here's my set of "rules"...
- Disorder frustrates me. Wasting time looking for things not put back where they belong makes me .
- Dirty refrigerators full of "science projects" are a health hazard. Unwiped counters bring ants. Snacks improperly stored in unsealed containers or bags bring field mice and/or go stale. Unsanitized sinks and counters are a haven for bacteria.
- Food is never left on the counter to defrost all day.
- Leftover food is always put away right after meals, usually frozen. Labeled and dated using blue painter's edging tape and a permanent marker.
- Plastic and glass containers are recycled and used for odds and ends. I also purchase all sizes and shapes of organizers at the dollar store to put inside drawers. Each is sorted, labelled and closed to keep things dust free. This habit comes from my years as a technical laboratory manager, keeping track of optics, connectors, adaptors, cables, etc .

The small amount of time it takes me to stay organized in the immediate time frame saves me a lot of time at a later date, plus the money and gas to not have to go buy something I know I have but simply cannot find.

YMMV
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Old 04-11-2011, 08:43 AM   #14
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Nobody could make a kitchen floor shine like my mother.
You can eat off my floor. Just look at all that food down there...
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Old 04-11-2011, 08:47 AM   #15
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You can eat off my floor. Just look at all that food down there...
Get yourself a dog. You won't have that problem ...
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Old 04-11-2011, 08:58 AM   #16
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This reminds me of the amazing marshmallow test:
Similar to SS Benefits. You can get your benefits now at 62 or wait till later and get more.
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Old 04-11-2011, 11:57 AM   #17
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Maybe a grownup version of the marshmallow test would be to take a group 62 year olds, put each of them in a separate motel room with a very attractive member of the opposite sex and offer them the option of having sex with them now, or waiting 8 years and having sex with two partners.
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Old 04-11-2011, 03:50 PM   #18
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Maybe a grownup version of the marshmallow test would be to take a group 62 year olds, put each of them in a separate motel room with a very attractive member of the opposite sex and offer them the option of having sex with them now, or waiting 8 years and having sex with two partners.
From what I read about the senior community called The Villages in Florida, that test probably wouldn't work very well... http://http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/item_Cc7ZfG20iWexuTKNixQhvO


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Old 04-13-2011, 10:50 AM   #19
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You can probably shorten your life with lack of conscientiousness (I think the study probably reflects that more than anything else); but we all know people who lived "healthy lives" and who in spite of doing everything "right" died of illnesses before their time.
I think you're right-- it's not whether or not you're conscientious, it's merely the artifact of survivor bias...

I'd much prefer a passive-index approach rather than actively-managed longevity.
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