Yesterday I noticed another news story about another study about longevity. This one says that people with a sense of humor and a positive outlook live longer.
That sounds good, I thought. I like to think I have a good sense of humor, I enjoy a hearty laugh as much as the next person, and I have a positive outlook about everything except my sports teams, politicians, and the outlook for the world at large. Maybe I’ll live longer!
But then I started to think about how many of these longevity studies are released every year. I think it’s because the Baby Boomers are growing older, and researchers vying for government funding figure that aging saps like me are suckers for reading about such studies in hopes of finding the Fountain of Youth.
Each longevity study evaluates some different characteristic, habit, practice, or genetic trait. It makes things so confusing!
How do we know whether longevity is really tied to sense of humor, or to so many minutes a day of vigorous walking, or to drinking regular glasses of wine, or to avoiding cyclamates and red dye no. 2 — among thousands of things that have been the subject of such studies? How can I precisely align my diet, exercise regimen, and daily activities to maximize my chances?
I don’t understand how, from a scientific standpoint, you can possibly screen out the influence of all other factors and determine that one activity, item of consumption, or quality is the crucial attribute that puts you over the top. In fact, I think human beings are such complex organisms, and our daily lives involve interaction with so many different things, that even trying to figure out what causes long life is an exercise in futility.
I think that means that if you like to laugh, laugh — just don’t expect that it’s going to be the key that unlocks the door to some day being recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as Earth’s oldest human.
Gee, I guess maybe my outlook isn’t so positive after all.