About this Research Topic
Longevity is one of the demographic measures growing quasi-exponentially from the middle of the 19th century to the present day. Furthermore, longevity is considered a measure of the success of humanity. Answers to the question of what drives differences in longevity can meanwhile build on a large body of evidence created by demographers, gerontologists, and other biomedical scientists, linked to human development and associated with socio-economic, educational, health, and other population, and individual indicators. Along this line of research, two major pathways are considered from a biomedical and demographical perspective in trying to explain why some people live longer and healthier than others: (i) genetic or intrinsic components (i.e., biomedical); and (ii) environmental or extrinsic factors. Both have been the focus of research interest and investment in empirical studies attributing approximately 20% to intrinsic (genetic) versus 80% to extrinsic (environmental) factors. But are these two components alone accountable for longevity and survival? Two important flaws emerge from this classification:
• First, from a socio-historical and epigenetic point of view, this polar classification could lead to misconceptions in the field, since intrinsic and extrinsic factors are interdependent. In other words, intrinsic or genetic factors are interacting – both at macro and micro level – all over the human history and individual lifespan, with extrinsic or environmental conditions, and the latter could be partially explained by the former and even by their interactions.
• Second, while intrinsic factors are reduced to genes, there are no specifications about the “environmental” factors accounting for longevity, including physical, economic, social and cultural aspects alongside personal conditions; both are behavioral (such as lifestyles) but also psychological characteristics (such as personality).
Thus, socio-environmental and personal psychological conditions need to be considered separately as well as in interaction. Excluding “lifestyles” (which sometimes are taken into consideration and are behavioral factors), the relative importance of their contribution remains unclear and, most significantly, this issue has been neglected not only by the diversity of disciplines involved but also by psychology and psychologists.
Presently, it is widely recognized by scientists, professionals, and laypersons that it is not longevity that is important per se, but rather healthy longevity. From successful, active, or healthy aging paradigms and supported by longitudinal, cross-sectional, and experimental studies, we now have evidence on the importance of psycho-behavioral factors in the ways human age. An existing broad corpus of research literature supports the hypothesis that, as well as behavioral life, psychological dimensions such as cognition, emotion, motivation, control, personality, and other psychosocial factors also predict longevity and survival – at least to some extent. All this evidence is coming from field studies; but what amount of variance are these psychological dimensions accounting for longevity and survival?
Furthermore, no systematic compilation of the broad range of psychological factors important for mortality or the amount of variance explained by them is available so far. Therefore, we aim with this Research Topic to gather recent empirical research – including secondary and meta-analysis – targeting the variety of psychological factors and link them to longevity/mortality, thus, to what extent intelligence, personality coping stress or lifestyles are accounting for longevity. This Research Topic is related to our project: “The missing link for a new paradigm to account for a healthy and active longevity: Psycho-Behavioural factors” (PsyBel, financed by MICINN to UAM).
Keywords: Longevity, aging, psycho-behavioral factors, personality, intelligence, emotion, age views, social relations, early life events, subjective health, survival, oldest-old
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