The Theory of Longevity

The factors determining how and when one dies often remain a mystery. Consider comedian George Burns who, despite being an avid cigar smoker for 75 years, lived to age 100.

In the continued study of longevity, researchers have uncovered another startling statistic: Holocaust survivors lived 7.1 years longer on average than their contemporaries who were not subject to such horrors during their lifetimes. Interestingly, the survivors studied experienced higher rates of hypertension, cancer, obesity – and even poverty – than the control group. In other words, where their bodies paid the price, their minds strengthened. Scientists have speculated that people who survive atrocities develop both a stronger immune system and a more enduring sense of hope than the general population.1a certain degree of “mind over matter” can have a significant impact when it comes to health and longevity

And yet, factors of strength of character and mental toughness are typically not considered when it comes to gauging how long a person may live. Take life insurance underwriting, for example. The underwriting process has historically used physical exams and questionnaires to help measure potential lifespan. However, insurers have recently started looking at lifestyle factors that may yield more about a person’s state of mind to help determine rates.

In New York, insurance regulators now allow insurers to glean information from an individual’s social media posts to help determine his respective premium.2 Moving forward, the words that come out of your mouth may be just as important as the food you select to go in it. If you’re considering various insurance products and ways to garner a premium that fits your budget, please give us a call.

The Holocaust study is backed up by a growing body of research demonstrating that a certain degree of “mind over matter” can have a significant impact when it comes to health and longevity. While diet and exercise are important, studies have found that a few simple activities engaged on a daily basis may help keep the brain young. These include practicing optimism, gratitude, regular social engagement with friends and meditation.3

On the other end of the spectrum, at least one new study found that people who view getting older as an intense negative are more likely to experience a heart attack, stroke or die from other causes several years earlier than their more optimistic peers.4

The “grandmother hypothesis” was unveiled in the 1960s as scientists discovered that young women living in close proximity to their mothers tend to have more children. Presumably, this is because a grandmother is around to help out. However, having more children meant that the legacy was more likely to live on, and the set of genes enabling a grandmother to remain healthy and engaged in child-rearing would also be passed on.5

Perhaps, too, it is a sense of nostalgia that helps older establishments remain in existence long past their heyday years. Take, for example, older restaurant chains you may not realize still exist in some remote places in the U.S. today.
Howard Johnson’s (aka HoJo) peaked in the late 1970s, when it hosted more than 1,000 locations as America’s largest restaurant chain. While the franchise once served more meals outside the home than any other organization (save the U.S. Army), today only one HoJo remains in Lake George, New York.6

Or who (of a certain age) doesn’t recall the enormous, colorful statue in front of Big Boy restaurants in towns all across America? In 1979, the burger joint proliferated. Today, less than 200 Big Boys remain in operation.7

And yet, when pondering examples of longevity, the question remains: Why do some live longer than others? Researchers will continue to study and ponder the question, but the answer may always remain an elusive and mystifying phenomenon.


1 Peter R. Orszag. Bloomberg. Jan. 28, 2019. “Holocaust Paradox: Long Lives for Those Who Survived.” Accessed Feb. 7, 2019. [CLICK HERE]
2 Jessica Baron. Forbes. Feb. 4, 2019. “Life Insurers Can Use Social Media Posts To Determine Premiums, As Long As They Don’t Discriminate.” Accessed Feb. 7, 2019. [CLICK HERE]
3 Jessica Stillman. Inc. Jan. 28, 2019. “5 Habits That Keep Your Brain Young.” Accessed Feb. 7, 2019. [CLICK HERE]
4 Nancy Clanton. Atlanta Journal Constitution. Jan. 9, 2019. “Study: To live a long life, you should embrace getting older.” Accessed Feb. 7, 2019. [CLICK HERE]
5 Jonathan Lambert. NPR. Feb. 7, 2019. “Living Near Your Grandmother Has Evolutionary Benefits.” Accessed Feb. 7, 2019. [CLICK HERE]
6 Doug Whiteman. Feb. 19, 2019. “Remember These Chain Restaurants? They’re Still Hanging On.” Accessed Feb. 27, 2019.
7 Ibid.



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