Two new, unrelated, studies show interesting links between longevity and your overall experience of life; especially how you actually live it. In my view, both raise questions about that actually means. That is, what underlies enjoying life? And how does it influence longevity?
To explain, researchers from University College London looked at previous findings that single occasions of enjoyment and life satisfaction appeared linked with greater longevity. The researchers then extended those findings to look at the impact of enjoying life over a longer period; more continuously.
That new study involved over 9000 adults in their 60s, and was conducted at two-year intervals. First, it found that the death rate was progressively higher among people who experienced fewer occasions of enjoying life. That finding held up even when accounting for other possible factors.
But those reporting the most frequent experiences of enjoying life had a death rate of 24 percent lower than others in the study. The researchers concluded that the longer an individual experiences life enjoyment – more sustained experiences -- the lower the risk of death. I believe that this study, and a second one, raise the question of what fuels and supports a sense of enjoying life through the years to begin with?
The second study contains a clue: It found that people who care for others, who provide emotional support and help people in some way, also experience longer lives. That joint study from several universities, described in this report from the University of Basel, was published in Evolution & Human Behavior.
These and other studies coincide with clinical research and observations of peoples’ life paths and experience over time. That is, I find that a key source of sustained enjoyment of life is having a sense of purpose and engagement — a reason for living. That tends to contribute to, or link with, greater overall health. And the latter can translate into greater longevity.
The core of that larger life purpose is engaging in something larger than just yourself — something that enlists your mental, emotional and creative capacities in the service of something meaningful. I’ve written about these issues here: for example, ways to find your life purpose; and why it can feel so difficult.
I think the upshot of studies like these, combined with clinical observation, is that moving beyond fixation with yourself — your own ego, your body, your “needs” — is the key to mind-body-spiritual health over the long run. And it’s no surprise that longevity is a by-product.
dlabier@CenterProgressive.org Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., writes the blog, Progressive Impact and is director of the Center for Progressive Development. He writes about psychological healthy lives in today’s society. For more about him on The Huffington Post, click here.