In 1921, Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman began a massive longitudinal study of 1,500 children, collecting millions of pieces of data about the subjects' lives. Data from the Terman study provided the raw material for a new book that has upended what we thought we knew about longevity. Terman died without seeing the conclusions of his project, but psychology professors Howard S. Friedman (UC Riverside) and Leslie R. Martin (La Sierra University) have published scores of scholarly articles and now a book, The Longevity Project, describing the findings of the 80-plus years of research.
For Adventists especially, The Longevity Project (Penguin Publishing) may call to mind the famous Blue Zones project that revealed geographical regions linked to high rates of longevity and the lifestyle trends associated with long life. However, Longevity Project differs in some important ways. First, because it reports on a decades-long longitudinal study, it is far more data rich. Second, it moves beyond the physiological habits of the long-lived and zeroes in on psycho-social factors that corresponded with longevity. Third, the book deconstructs many "common sense" notions about long life. For instance, while parents' divorce was the single greatest predictor of early mortality, paradoxically, divorce for women in troubled marriages was linked to longevity. Finally, whereas the Blue Zones project looked at geographical regions with unusually high instances of people living past the century mark, The Longevity Project began as a study of children who exhibited high intellectual capability. Terman was interested in factors that might indicate high IQ in children.
The book has received critical acclaim for its voluminous data and for its unconventional findings. Some critics have pointed out that the research is based on a sample skewed toward Anglo participants--minorities are a small minority of the study's subjects.
Martin, who lectures at La Sierra and also conducts research at UC Riverside, emphasizes the myth-busting nature of the research she and Friedman have published. The two have been in demand since the book's release, appearing on television and radio shows from Good Morning America to Fox and Friends to NPR's On Point. Martin has given interviews to numerous print media outlets as well.
For a list of Martin's appearances and interviews, visit the La Sierra University website.
Below, Martin and Friedman discuss the book, including some of the longevity "myths" the book's research overturns.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/3046