What is the secret of longevity? American researchers from the University of Michigan in the United States have investigated the matter. They managed to isolate, in a new scientific study, four essential factors to age as well as possible, and hope to have a long and beautiful life.
Regular physical exercise, healthy eating and quality sleep are essential for healthy aging. Health. But that would not be enough. According to researchers at the University of Michigan, USA, psychological health would be the true secret of longevity and more specifically of four factors: optimism, happiness, social support and the fact of having a goal or finding meaning in life. The scientists presented their findings at a new studyreported on Wednesday, April 13, 2022 by the scientific journal greater good from the University of California at Berkeley.
A study based on the emotional state
The researchers studied the emotional state of 21,000 adults over the age of 50. They were based on data collected from another survey that looked at health and retirement, also conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan.
Every four years, the participants in this previous study were asked to answer a questionnaire about their psychological health, in which they were asked about their level of happiness, optimism, life satisfaction and social support. This made it possible to work out their wellness score.
Between 2006 and 2020, nearly 5,000 participants in the Health and Retirement Study died. The researchers then studied how their psychological health may or may not have contributed to their longevity. They then compared the psychological well-being of deceased people, looking at their well-being score, with that of people of the same age who were still alive.
Having a purpose in life, the factor that most influences longevity
And the bottom line is clear: Study participants who are still alive generally have much better psychological health. Therefore, emotional well-being plays an essential role in longevity.
The researchers were even able to analyze the most influential factors in detail. Having a purpose in life comes first. Happiness and optimism would also be very important. Social support would be the factor that least influences longevity.
How psychological wellness extends lifespan still eludes scientists. However, Jennifer Boylan believes that what can explain it would be the fact that “Psychologically healthy people tend to take better care of themselves by being physically active, sleeping better, and engaging in more preventive health care”.
And then, according to her, “Being mentally healthy can help people better cope with stress by reducing the accompanying harmful physiological reactions, such as increased heart rate or blood pressure.”.
Better psychological health could increase life expectancy by eight years
Although they did not clearly identify the reasons why good psychological health promotes longevity, the researchers were able to define the number of additional years of life of happy, positive people who have a goal in life and who are surrounded. When all four criteria were met, at the age of 50, in study participants, and this to a significantly higher degree than average, these people lived an average of five to eight years longer than average.