HEALTH AND LONGEVITY RESEARCH
Dr. Friedman's primary research efforts are now focused on his archival prospective study of predictors and mediators of health and longevity in the 8-decade Terman cohort. This project studies females and males across the life-span (1921-2001) based on archival data first collected by Lewis Terman in the 1920's, and updated by us to include death certificates.
The primary goal of this research is to understand the ways psychosocial factors affect health and longevity across time. The initial findings emerging from this project indicated that childhood personality (especially conscientiousness) and the (lack of) experience of parental divorce in childhood were predictive of longevity across the life-span, and continuing efforts have focused on the explanatory mechanisms involved in such observed key relations. These relations are being explored in terms of subsequent (adulthood) psychosocial patterns and health-related behaviors such as alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity, physical activity, marriage, education, and psychosocial adjustment.
Perhaps the key result of this project thus far is the emerging picture of a life-long pattern of responding that significantly decreases the risk of ill health and premature mortality. This behavior pattern is characterized by a conscientiousness and lack of impulsivity, accompanied by stable family relations. The clarity of this pattern across the life-span is a new finding in the health promotion/disease prevention arena, but it complements and expands extant understanding of risky and healthy psychosocial patterns. In particular, current efforts are progressing in three prongs-the psychological (personality and mental health influences), the social, and the health behavioral (e.g. physical activity). A book describing the striking results thus far is The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study. NY: Hudson Street Press.
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