Friday, April 25, 2008

So, how long do you think I have?

I read a great essay in the Times about longevity, and what it takes to get the most out of our short time in the mortal coil.

Given the 6+ hours last night I spent fretting about everything, I thought I should take the suggested Blue Zones quiz to determine my projected lifespan. According to my current status, I am currently 29.6 years old (almost 3 years younger than I actually am) and I'm projected to live 88.7 years, with 74.9 years described as "healthy."

I don't like the idea of 14 years of "unhealthy" - but I think I can affect that with obvious changes I've already incorporated in my life, such as more exercise and an increased intake of fresh foods.

What I found most interesting were the two determiners of the outcome that are somewhat (but not really) surprising: stress/outlook and belonging.

I took the quiz a few times and played with the answers to see what happened.

They predict that those who consume between 1-2 drinks daily will achieve a longer span than those who abstained or overdid it.
They correlate a higher level of education with a longer life.
Those married or in long-term loving relationships gain points over those single, widowed or divorced - although all three land on the same point on the scale.
Those who have a more solid sense of belonging to community (they have two indicators: church and group activities) also correlate to a longer life.

So here's what I think...

Maybe a drink now and then would ease stress. And belonging to a community increases your safety net, and gives you a place to vent your frustrations and accomplish something beyond yourself - you know that you have a place to receive unconditional love and acceptance, and what about that WON'T make you want to hold out a few more years.

The education appears to correlate to community as well, although it may tie into the portion that has to do with annual earnings. Having increased my personal communities greatly through both my masters and undergraduate education, I can say that my education was an excellent predictor for "belonging."

As for coupledom, I think that's a hard call, because a bad one will increase stress levels and therefore decease life span (according to this model) whereas I think (strike that, I KNOW) that a solid friend/family community can be a more than an ample replacement for a partner.

That said, I'm solidly in The Blue Zone, but I need to find a way to let go of stress, frustration and the anger they create together.

I'm going to retake the test in July and see if anything has changed...

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