Top positive review
One person found this helpful
One of the more significant longitudinal studies of factors affecting human longevity, with unfortunate presentation
on 9 January 2015
The study - following from and based on the longitudinal research of Dr. Terman - has a relatively unique dataset of around 1500 participants who were meticulously followed for around 80 years, thereby allowing unprecedented analysis of the influence of lifestyle choices on longevity. Lots of the research going into the study has previously been published in scientific articles and the current book is an attempt to summarize the findings for a wider audience, so as to disseminate the most important information more broadly.
Dr. Terman started his research of bright or gifted children from California in the early 1920s, with candidates on average being around 10 years old. These were then followed until the death of Dr. Terman until the 1950s by the original research team and then by several subsequent groups of researchers well past the year 2000.
Longitudinal research is relatively rare, as it is both expensive and as it requires a very long term perspective to produce results - not something particularly popular in the current 'publish or perish' academic environment. In order to make the most of it, Dr. Terman tested the participants on the widest possible spectrum of questions, so as to enable the future generations to test this unique database for a variety of effects of lifestyle choices on longevity.
The book is significant in that it allows several common sense myths about longevity to be finally laid to rest. Examples being that married people live longer, that one should exercise as vigorously as possible, avoid stress and moderate work, etc.
While the content of the research is certainly of impeccable quality, the presentation - here geared towards the broadest possible audience - is less of a success. The authors try to bring the subject closer by presenting results via individual study participants and their experiences. This is certainly easier to read and picture than endless tables of statistical significance of the findings (or the general style of peer reviewed scientific publications) but often creates the impression that their findings are based on a handful of single person cases and thereby not really generally applicable (as pointed out by several reviewers).
While this is not the case (and going through some of the sources mentioned at the end of the book will convince you of it) it can be vexing at times and I would personally also have enjoyed more numerical data supporting the findings. The authors also admit that their research primarily accounts for the nurture end of the spectrum, meaning that they are researching behavioural / environmental and not genetic influencers of longevity. This is not a detriment, as we can hardly alter our genetic make-up but certainly are capable of changing our behaviour or environmental effects on us.
Be that as it may, the book is certainly good enough to allow you to ask yourself questions about your lifestyle and to make changes which are easier to successfully maintain than the standard short term bouts of dieting and occasional exercising that many do as a result of well intentioned but seldom kept resolutions on a healthier life. As such I can definitely recommend it, even if the readers interested in more detail will be better served by the sources at the back for satisfying their further curiosity.