In Chapter 10, career success is analyzed in terms of its contribution to stress and longevity. Rather than the expected finding that high levels of career stress shorten life expectancy, the authors found that stress in careers was a much less important predictor than overall success in careers. This was especially true for people who found their careers rewarding, who were ambitious and correspondingly very accomplished, and who were extremely productive even into old age. The pursuit of goals, coupled with a conscientious and persevering personality, turned out to be very beneficial. As usual, personality and the behavior patterns that resulted from personality were far more of a determinant than expected.
I really do appreciate this finding, because it’s one that I think will be very relevant to my career. As someone who wants to pursue a career in medicine, specifically surgery, I know that I will be putting in many long hours and experiencing a good deal of stress throughout the duration of my career. I fully expect that it will be fulfilling, though, and I think I have the motivation, perseverance, and conscientiousness to make the most of it. It’s definitely nice to know that pursuing a high stress career may not necessarily worsen my health outcomes in the long-term, and that I have more control over how my career affects my health than I realized.
Chapter 11 focuses on the influence that religion has in life expectancy. Generally, they found that religiously-inclined people tended to live longer than those with no religiosity. This was more true for women than for men. However, the authors again found that the individual characteristics and behavioral patterns were more important; essentially, people who were religious tended to be so because of predisposing traits that made them well-suited for religion, and those traits were what was critical to longevity. The community engagement aspect of a religious community is important and helpful, but the authors did mention that maintaining close ties in other ways could be just as protective.
These findings make sense to me, and I feel pretty neutral overall about the chapter. I am not religiously inclined, though I do appreciate many of the morals and values that being raised with religion gave me. I was raised Catholic but I chose not to get confirmed, because I disagreed with so many of the then-foundational stances held by the Catholic church. It was a bit of a scandal, funnily enough, and I’m still the only person in my entire extended family not to be confirmed. But it suits me. I am a spiritual person, just not someone that finds the community and ritual of organized religion especially rewarding. So I generally just pray on my own and do my best to live in a way that’s considerate of others. I suppose this chapter showed me that being non-religious likely won’t have any impact on my health–I’ll have to find social ties and community elsewhere.