Georgia Centenarian Study (Pt. 9): Engaged Lifestyle & Quality of Life

[Dr. Miller] We are also
finding that something we call “An Engaged Life Style” enhances your ability to do
well later on in centenarians. The engaged life style essentially refers to any
kind of activity you’ve done at any time over your life, such as traveling-
traveling in the United States, traveling abroad, such
as learning a foreign language, such as volunteering,
such as giving public speeches, so we have developed a scale that basically tells us
whether some people have been very engaged
in those kinds of activities in their lives as
compared to others who have not been so engaged, and indeed it is the people
who have high scores on this engaged
lifestyle variable who seem to do much better
as centenarians than those who,
for some reason or another, did not have such opportunities. Physical health, per se,
whether you would measure it by blood pressure or any diseases
centenarians might have, or whether you would
measure subjective health, a self-rating, were
surprisingly not very different from these
younger age groups. Centenarians, in that sense, looked a lot more like
people in their eighties, some of them even
in their sixties. Finally, when we looked
at mental health we first were surprised
that centenarians tended to have higher
scores in depression or depressive symptoms. We were puzzled by this
because our interviewers, when they came back,
did not get the impression that these were lonely,
depressed people, but yet their
scores were higher. Really, much of their mental
health problem that we noticed tended to be primarily in
higher scores of fatigue and in lower scores of
what we call ‘positive affect’: Not enough positive things
happening in your life. You’re more restricted
to your own home, and so you are dependent
on other people coming to you and bringing things to you. It’s not that they’re
depressed about it, but they have fewer
possibilities to show how they may
continue to contribute in a positive way
to everyday life.

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