La Sierra Psychology Professor Co-Authors New Book on Health and Living Longer
An important landmark study upends the advice we have been told about how to live to a healthy old age.
March 3, 2011
Conventional wisdom has long held that the key to longevity involves obsessing over what we eat, how much we stress, and how fast we run. But now co-authors Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin have completed the most extensive study of longevity ever conducted, and their new book, The Longevity Project, exposes what really impacts our lifespan-including friends, family, personality, and work.
Friedman, a professor at University of California Riverside, and Martin, a professor at La Sierra University, gathered new information and used modern statistics to study participants across eight decades. Their findings bust myths about achieving health and long life. For example, people do not die from working long hours at a challenging job—many who worked the hardest lived the longest. Getting and staying married is not the magic ticket to long life, especially if you're a woman. And it's not the happy-go-lucky ones who thrive-it's the prudent and persistent who flourish through the years.
With questionnaires that help you determine where you are heading on the longevity spectrum and advice about how to stay healthy, this book changes the conversation about living a long, healthy life.
Advance praise for the book has come in from across the country. Comments include:
"The Longevity Project uses one of the most famous studies in psychology to answer the question of who lives longest—and why. The answers will surprise you. This is an important—and deeply fascinating—book." – Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point
"A compelling and objective assessment of character traits associated with longevity. Only a handful of studies in this field last long enough to give meaningful results, and even fewer remain significant after their primary investigators have passed away. Friedman and Martin have resurrected a remarkable achievement with surprising conclusions. I learned a lot from this book." – Andrew Weil, M.D., author of You Can't Afford to Get Sick and of Spontaneous Healing and renowned pioneer in the field of integrative medicine
Published by Hudson Street Press, The Longevity Project is available in bookstores and online. A Kindle version is also available through Amazon.com.
A CONVERSATION WITH DR. HOWARD FRIEDMAN AND DR. LESLIE MARTIN
Q. Of all the myths you've "busted" in the course of this study, which surprised you the most?
Howard: You always hear advice to take it easy and not work so hard but this turned out to be wrong, wrong, wrong! Hard work was not a health problem. Contrary to what most people think, it was the happy-go-lucky, less successful folks who were at greatest risk of dying. For example, Norris Bradbury took on the challenge of the A-Bomb. Decades after entering the study as a child, Bradbury became an atomic physicist, playing a key role on the Manhattan Project and then becoming director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was tremendously successful in this highly stressful job. Successful and long-lived, Bradbury went from strength to strength.
Leslie: I was surprised by many of our results, but perhaps most surprised by the way many single and divorced women were able to thrive. This is not the picture of single-hood that is typically portrayed by the media, and it was both startling and refreshing to see just how well most of these women did, living fulfilling happy and long lives.
Q. How has this project changed your own lives?
Howard: I recognize more clearly that many events in life that we think are random are really set in motion by our prior choices and associations.
Leslie: I have a better understanding now of how complex human health and behavior really are. Of course we all know this in the abstract, but it's an entirely different thing to have such a vast ocean of data to sort through and to see the various interactions taking place. The Longevity Project has allowed us to explore people's lives in a way that is seldom possible—in fact it's never been done in quite this way, with so many people over so many years, before! And, even though the complexity of individual variables sometimes seems overwhelming, this project has also allowed me to take a step back and look at the basic patterns that emerge over time, which are elegant in their simplicity. That's a really cool thing.
Q. You say you are animal lovers, even though pets did not turn out to take the place of close friends and be health-promoting—can you tell us a bit more about the animals in your lives?
Howard: Nothing compares to Leslie's love of animals.
Leslie: I've had lots of animals in my life: horses, cows, and sheep as a kid; lizards and hedgehogs as an adult. Right now I have a whippet which is basically a smallish greyhound. He goes to work with me every day and has become something of a mascot in the La Sierra University Psychology Department. We run together, and snuggle up and read together—well, I read and he snuggles.
Q. How do you get your exercise? Are you joggers?
Howard: I was glad to discover that forced, regimented exercise was not at all necessary to good health. I hike or walk several miles every day, choose stairs over elevators, and never sit in my chair for too long.
Leslie: Actually I am a jogger, but I go at a slow pace. I like running outdoors—no treadmills for me, please! My dog runs with me, which is great, and I listen to music and think. I also love gymnastics, though I'm getting a little too old for that. I do some high jumping. And, I enjoy "adventure travel" so that usually involves running or hiking or some other strenuous thing.
Q. Social connections emerge as very important throughout the book. How do you foster lots of good social connections for yourselves?
Howard: With a wife, two kids, many amazing students, and good friends, it's not something I have to think about too often. And of course there's my wonderful co-author and long-time collaborator.
Leslie: I'm very fortunate in that I have a lot of wonderful friends. None of my family lives nearby but my friends are family to me. I make it a point to send emails, make phone calls, and get together with friends as much as I can without compromising my work. Sometimes it's just for an hour; sometimes it's for a trip that takes several weeks. I also volunteer and I'm in a book club and a track club.
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University