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The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade S tudy Hardcover – March 3, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this illuminating addition to the burgeoning bookshelf on longevity, UC-Riverside health researchers Friedman and Martin draw on an eight-decade-long Stanford University study of 1,500 people to find surprising lessons about who lives a long, healthy life and why. The authors learned, for example, that people don't die simply from working long hours or from stress, that marriage is no golden ticket to old age, and the happy-all-the-time types may peter out before the serious plodders. If there's a secret to old age, the authors find, it's living conscientiously and bringing forethought, planning, and perseverance to one's professional and personal life. Individual life stories show how different people find the right balance in different ways, depending on their personalities and social situations. Lively despite the huge volume of material from 80 years of study, and packed with eye-opening self-assessment tests, this book says there's no magic pill, but does offer a generous dose of hope: even if life deals you a less than perfect hand, you're not doomed to an early demise if you live with purpose and make connections with the people around you. (Mar.)
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How best to ensure a long life? In The Longevity Project, the authors, university professors, explain why many common beliefs are "ill-advised or simply wrong." An absorbing and invaluable read. --THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

"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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hudson Street Press; 1 edition (March 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594630755
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594630750
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By D_shrink VINE VOICE on March 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was an easy read of 248pp. It concerned a continuation of a longitudinal study first begun by Dr. Lewis Terman of Stanford Univ. in 1921. Termin died in 1958 and the authors continued with their interpretation of his original study. The original group of subjects were chosen for what Termin considered to be their high IQ's and they numbered 1548 being born circa 1910.

The text is filled with numerous abbreviated self-assessment questionnaires to give the reader an idea of what the original subjects had to answer. I found the book generally informative and definitely written for the lay person, but also somewhat subjective in many of the conclusions reached. The trouble with all self-assessment questionnaires is that they are biased in giving the view of the assessee, rather than an outside observer.

The main idea behind the book is that there is no one particular thing that leads to longevity, but that it is simply a result of some genetics modified by lifestyle choices which are less challenging than those dangerous decisions made by some living closer to the edge [as choosing to smoke or use illicit drugs]. In other words, it was the totality of things done during a lifetime rather than anyone thing that might cause someone to live to be a hundred.

The authors determined that the best CHILDHOOD PREDICTOR of longevity was CONSCIENTIOUSNESS, the trait of being dependable and following through on life goals, as they defined it. They also felt that good health leads to happiness and longevity rather than happiness leading to good health.

Here is a partial list of some things the authors felt were true:
1. Although breast feeding is good for the baby's health it does not of itself lead to a longer lifespan.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a massive effort by a number of skilled and dedicated researchers written up in detail. So why do I feel cheated?

In spite of huge amounts of data, only interpretations of it were passed on to us. We are repeatedly told "many" or "some" or "other participants" or... Every page has one or more such imprecise words but we are not given even simple percentages. Is "many" 52% or 89%, or what? It would have been so easy to specify. I can think of no good reason not to have given this more precise information to the reader.

Next, very little effort was made to help interpret the results of the "tests" we took. Or even to say why not. It sounds like their validity was good. But reliability? If they didn't have decent norms, why give them to us? If they did, why didn't they give us more information, such as intercorrelations or cluster analysis?

Then, they sidestepped the issue of gay/straight, by saying Terman stayed away from this. Ah, but they didn't have to. Even with no "hard" data, they might have grouped the "not married" subjects with the converse male/female ratings, done some analyses and made some guesses. And had a second sample of the converse male /female ratings with divorced subjects. This might have been fascinating data. These presumed-subjects preceded gay liberation by many years - what was it like for them in terms of longevity, happiness, etc.? I find it very hard to believe that there weren't any gays in this study, and even a guessed-at small sample, with all the caveats the researchers wanted to add, might have been interesting.

The researchers were very bright people; their subjects were top-of-the-line. So why do they write as if the reader hadn't gotten past the 8th grade?
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Format: Hardcover
I was not able to put down this fascinating book that caused me to page back through my own life, looking for past lifestyles and situations that could have dramatically shortened my life. I took so many risks, some of which were very unnecessary. After reading the book I have even more appreciation for my wife, who has helped me settle down into a very responsible lifestyle that is very gratifying and hopefully, as predicted by the authors will also lead to a long life.

It is rare that I read a book cover to cover as I am very busy with my business. But this book I got very personally involved with. Though written by someone with a strong academic background, he wrote it so that a working guy like myself could enjoy it. It is a great book to share with your friends and open up discussion about lifestyle choices and the wisdom or lack of wisdom around those choices. I also believe it may cause people in the health professions to rethink the combination of life skills and attributes for a better life. Educators should put the findings of this book to use restructuring programs based on skills associated with steadiness, responsibility and moderation.
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Format: Hardcover
Even though this book does shed light on some interesting myth busters regarding health and well-being, I found the most fascinating part the detective story inside the landmark 80-year study. The authors do a great job of making behavioral science exciting for the non-scientist. You wanted to know how they eliminated one explanation, formed a new hypothesis, tested it, and then refined their explanations for various contributors to death, such as trauma, stress, and neuroticism. The self-assessments were fun and help the reader assess his/her own journey to health. The case studies were great illustrations of main points, and it was fun to read about some really famous people who started out as 12 year old genius kids identified by their teachers as having great potential. Then Dr. Terman pulls them out of their classroom and starts picking their brains for another quarter century. Another impressive aspect of the science is how Friedman, Martin, and a slew of graduate students and colleagues validated half-century old measures on newer samples of people. The statistical archaeology was fascinating! While the final stop is predictable (find your bliss and follow it with conscientiousness and perseverance, and be sure to build social ties along the way), the journey is one you enjoy going on. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the evolution of scientific thinking, history, health science, and critical thinking regarding popular myths.
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