80. Devote Yourself to a Career
The Longevity Project—an eight-decade long mission from University of California Riverside—used data from about 1,500 gifted children as far back as 1921 to answer the question of who would live the longest, and what factors contributed to that longevity. (The project had been following and recording the children’s personality and behavioral traits, as well as their chosen careers, throughout their lives.) One of those answers, researchers found, is a solid work ethic. According to the mortality data, the individuals in the group described as conscientious, hardworking, and prudent throughout their lives managed to survive about two or three years longer than the others—a 30 percent decreased risk of an early death. But according to the researchers, working “hard” doesn’t necessarily mean breaking your back by logging the hours: the characteristic of simply being devoted and diligent with your work could add longevity because it extends naturally to other parts of your life, your attentiveness to your health, fitness, and well-being.
Chances are if you’ve volunteered, donated, or contributed your time for a cause, you’ve gotten a warm feeling of satisfaction. But a 2013 review from the University of Exeter found that helping others in need is also a good predictor for a longer life, based on several studies from the past few years. The researchers looked at the effects of formal volunteering (defined as a regular, long-term, and structured commitment at least once a month) on individual’s mental well-being, physical health, and overall survival (compared to those who have never volunteered at all). Some studies showed that one hour or more of volunteering a month was linked to self-reports of higher life satisfaction and lower instances of depression. But even more interestingly, other studies analyzed in the review also showed individuals had a lower risk of mortality, even after adjusting for factors like higher socio-economic status, lifestyle, and overall health. The researchers admit the mechanisms behind this are unclear (especially since volunteering showed no direct physical health advantages), but the social benefits that come with spending time with others—like a higher mood or a lower risk for depression—could possibly play a role.
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