October 24, 2011

The Key to a Long Life -- Become a Nun!

In Chapter 7 of Lilienfeld's textbook, Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, there was a paragraph that talked about Alzheimer's disease, which also went on to describe a study of nuns and how their life expectancy ranged from 87 to over 100 years--much higher than average American life expectancy of 77 years. Alzheimer's is a disease characterized by memory and language impairments (Lilienfeld 268). It affects 42 % of people over the age of 85. The fact that nuns had a higher life expectancy interested me and so I looked up other "nun studies" on the Internet. I also found another article detailing the same findings...


http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/205970/the_key_to_a_long_life_become_a_nun_pg3.html?cat=5

It was cool to see that the findings could be replicated, but we already know that studies and surveys do not yield causation. Which makes me wonder what the contributing factors are to leading a long healthy life. In the article, the author referenced that cloistered nuns live a very routine life causing the brain to be more at ease. This could account for the slower deterioration of brain cells. It also stated that they rarely live their communities resulting in lower sickness rates. Pair those things with the "no smoking or drinking rules" and you've created a less stressful life.

Another possible cause I'd like to point out is the fact that nuns are very compassionate, loving and peaceful people. They don't go on roller coaster rides of emotion or take big physical or mental risks. They have positive outlooks and are very much content with their purpose in life. I feel that having a demeanor like this also plays a critical role in having a healthier brain later in life. The brain is very intricate and powerful. It dictates what we do and what our bodies do, so it would makes sense to assume that people who think healthier have healthier lives. I mean, do you ever see a mad and grumpy 100 year old? No. Because people like that don't live to be that old! Just kidding. But it would be interesting to see the studies done on people with positive and negative demeanors and their life expectancy...