If you don't procrastinate, you will live longer

Individual preventive actions to avoid unwanted loneliness and stress would prolong healthy life and save costs for the health system

IÑAKI ORTEGA CACHÓN Professor of Business Administration, UNIR - International University of La Rioja MIGUEL USABEL RODRIGO Actuarial science & machine learning professor, Carlos III University

Longevity is one of the great achievements of our age. We live longer and healthier. In this article we are going to expose various studies that show that those people who do not make certain self-care decisions in time have a greater probability of dying before those who do.

Procrastination is a word that comes from the Latin procrastinare (pro, forward, and crastinus, referring to the future) and is used to catalog those situations in which an action is postponed, something that can become a habit. Delaying activities that must be attended to, substituting them for other more irrelevant or pleasant situations, can lead to the extreme of bordering on psychopathology. When we talk about birthdays, procrastination is insisting on not exercising, smoking or not taking care of the diet. However, there are other relevant factors.

In 1978, researchers Russell, Peplau, and Ferguson developed their famous loneliness scale at the University of California (UCLA). Used by health and geriatric welfare services around the world, this tool evaluates the subjective experience of loneliness in adults in the social, family and couple aspects.

The link between emotional loneliness and the appearance and aggravation of mental illnesses, coronary illnesses and neoplasms has been confirmed by the scientific literature. In short, recent research suggests that people who feel more alone have between 20 and 40% more chances of premature death. But it is not the same for any loneliness: emotional loneliness is considered the one with the greatest impact. Some researchers define it as the number of people to turn to in an emergency situation. If it is below two, you suffer from loneliness that is deadly.

For its part, another study on mortality and work stress published in The Lancet concluded that what makes us live fewer years is not having a heavy workload but rather suffering from bad stress. This stress is generated by issues such as having little labor locus of control (when professional destiny depends on external arbitrariness and is not under the control of the worker), high levels of self-demand or situations of job insecurity after 50 years of age. This is the cocktail that causes "deadly stress".

Retiring early is not the solution. Activity is positive. Research on the blue zones of the world (those territories in which the longest-lived people live) identified a common pattern in places as disparate as Okinawa, Crete or Costa Rica. In all of them, the centenarian elders were still very active in jobs linked to the field, while their voice continued to be heard and respected in the community in which they lived.

Fight against procrastination, the best public health policy

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal links the development of senile dementia with the prior appearance of comorbid conditions (when several ailments come together in the subject, such as cholesterol, triglycerides or hypertension). It is enough to delay the appearance of comorbid conditions in the age group between 55 and 70 years for a year to reduce the probability of developing some type of senile dementia by 4%.

Therefore, preventive actions to improve diet, encourage exercise, reduce smoking and alcoholism, as well as avoid unwanted loneliness and work stress, would prolong healthy life and save enormous costs for the health system.

Available data on life expectancy predicts that there will be more and more centenarians. While some will survive the century, others will die prematurely. A striking duality in which the variance of life will get bigger.

That is why the study Paths of Personality towards Mortality, carried out by a team of German, Irish and American researchers who reach the conclusion that those individuals with personalities prone to order and organization live longer.

Using the five-factor model of personality, we could deduce that people who are lazy and delay their decisions die sooner. Quite a challenge for public powers, but also for those involved in the education of those, hopefully, future long-lived.

This article has been published in '
The Conversation'.

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