Chapter 14 of The Longevity Project explores the effect of war and stress on physical health. The authors seek to understand why, despite proven negative effects of stress, many veterans and people who have undergone trauma live to old age. One important factor in military service’s effect on health is overseas versus home front service, as men overseas were one and a half times as likely to die than veterans on the home front. In addition, the location of fighting made a difference, and men who fought in the Pacific theater during the Vietnam war were much more likely to die than those that served in Europe. Interestingly, more impulsive and careless men were more likely to be sent to the Pacific. The authors explain that traumatic stress is particularly harmful if an individual does not cope effectively and develops unhealthy habits, such as smoking and drinking, with alcohol abuse a key problem for Terman veterans. As well, the authors evaluate the relationship between depression, cardiovascular disease and other illlnesses, describing a study that showed depression does not cause heart disease, and rather occurs in individuals on a pathway associated with poor health and earlier mortality. Overall, the authors conclude that both stress and genes are important, with some people more likely to both encounter and be affected by stress, and individuals already on a healthy path the better at responding to stress.
This chapter relates to my family as several of my cousins and uncles and my grandfather are war veterans. Despite the fact that they served overseas and saw combat, my family members reached out to family and friends for support when they returned from deployment and avoided unhealthy coping mechanisms. This speaks to the importance of a person’s response to stress and maintaining a healthy pathway.
This chapter also predicts well for my longevity as I generally have good response mechanisms to stress and use family support, exercise and other activities to deal with problems I face. As well, because I am already on a good path, it seems likely that I will cope well if faced with acute stress.
Chapter 15 of The Longevity Project summarizes concrete conclusions about how to improve individual health and longevity. The authors describe the growth of the healthcare field wellness field created to address the positive aspects of health, with healthy life pathways more important than anything else. Overall, the authors promote conscientiousness, hard but rewarding work, associating with healthy groups, avoiding catastrophic thinking, only getting married if it will be healthy and beneficial, cultivating resiliance, engaging in an active lifestyle (not just exercising), nurtering social connectedness and worrying to a healthy extent. In this way, the Terman participants that lived the longest were those who had meaningful and interesting lives and found healthy paths whenever they faced hardship. The habits of the individuals that lived the longest also promote a more fulfilling and productive life.
This chapter relates to me as I strive for the behaviors that the researchers found to increase longevity and support a fulfilling life. There are definitely things I need to work on, such as worrying too much and avoiding catastrophic thinking, but overall I am conscientious, sociable and hardworking. As a result, I hope these traits will improve both my longevity and quality of life.
Overall, in the epilogue of The Longevity Project the authors conclude that people overestimate the importance of family biology and focus too little on the importance of healthy pathways. As well, the authors stress that the medical community tends to provide oversimplified recommendations to health that are too narrow or incorrect. Finally, in addition to medical treatment for illness, society health occurs when individuals are conscientious, goal oriented, and connected to their communities, with mental health an important counterpart to physical health. Using these findings, social and health care policy changes can promote longevity and happiness.