Chapter 8 discusses the effects that exercise and activity levels may have on life expectancy. I found this chapter to be pretty inconsistent, though. It seemed like the authors were trying to avoid taking a firm stance–to avoid offending people–so their conclusions often contradicted themselves. They would say how crucial it was to live an active life, making statements about how active kids became active adults that lived longer. Then they would say the opposite, claiming that inactive children could live the same length, as long as they developed some activity later in life. In the end, they came up with a weak piece of advice: to be active through patterns that are consistent with your past history of activity. For those who are less inclined to active hobbies or exercise, this piece of advice isn’t especially helpful in my opinion. I think they could have done a lot more with this chapter if they had been more concise and confident in their main points, but instead I was left feeling like the authors waffled too much for the chapter to be useful.
Chapter 9 did a better job of examining differences (in marital status) and drawing concrete conclusions from them. They found that steadily married men lived the longest; steadily single men lived the next longest; divorced and remarried men lived the third longest; and divorced men lived the shortest out of all the groups. They explained the gap in longevity between married vs. single vs. remarried men as a result of the incredible stress caused by divorce. This would be exacerbated in the divorced-but-not-remarried group of men, who also lacked the support of a partner in the long term. In women, that effect wasn’t seen nearly to the same extent as it was in men. Women who divorced and stayed single didn’t show a significant decrease in life expectancy–and actually lived longer than the women who divorced and remarried–which goes to show that sometimes it’s healthier to be single if your partner makes you miserable. It was super annoying to me that the happiness of the man predicted life expectancy and life satisfaction for both partners, but the happiness of the woman in a marriage was basically irrelevant. I really hated that finding, and I’m determined that my health and happiness later in life is NOT going to be as influenced by a man’s happiness.
Finally, they found that personality traits and life paths had a lot to do with whether an individual was likely to get divorced: conscientious people tended to have steady marriages, while those who came from tumultuous [divorced] families tended towards divorce. This is reassuring for me, since I’m both conscientious and was raised by very happily married parents. The results in Chapter 9 were overall not surprising to me. It makes sense that having a healthy relationship with a partner who supports you (and holds you accountable) should extend life expectancy. Conversely, experiencing as disruptive a life event as divorce should definitely impact longevity.