People have been searching for the Fountain of Youth for more than five centuries. For many, the secret to longevity is simply a matter of good genes, exercise, and eating their vegetables. But there may actually be more to it than that. Notably, research has shown that mental and social engagement are two of the keys to a long and healthy life.
Mental engagement means keeping your mind active and occupied through activities like sports, science experiments, and even crossword puzzles. A 1999 study written by a group of psychologists and published by the National Institute of Mental Health found that the more cognitively stimulating and intellectually challenging a person’s job, the more likely they were to maintain a high level of intellectual function. Teachers and surgeons are two examples of professions that might be considered cognitively stimulating and intellectually challenging. A 2007 study by physicians at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago also found that people with these types of occupations have a lower chance of getting mental illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease as they get older.
Did You Know?
Cortisol, or hydrocortisone, is one of the hormones released in response to stress. Too much of it can lead to various adverse health effects like high blood pressure, kidney malfunction, and even decreased fertility.
Meanwhile, social engagement means remaining actively connected with significant people in your life, like friends, family, and neighbours. Scientists have identified many benefits to doing so: it reduces stress, prevents harmful hormones like cortisol from being released into the body, makes it easier to remain optimistic, and helps you to better overcome life challenges. For his bestselling book Blue Zones, author Dan Buettner interviewed dozens of centenarians (people over one hundred years old). He found that all of them had maintained their social circles and had continued to play key roles and take on significant responsibilities within their families and communities as they got older.
Did You Know?
Research shows that getting a pet can fulfill social needs and increase your life span by one to three years!
Does this mean that going out with friends every day will make you live longer? Not necessarily. What it does mean is that we all need a balanced lifestyle that includes work, friends, family, and even some individual time for personal growth. By making the right choices, you can enjoy a much longer and healthier life.
Dan Buettnet, Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest
“Finding Purpose in Life,” The Washington Times, 2 September 2009