A Mini Non-Scientific Observation on Longevity
The other day, I was watching shows and clips from the Dean Martin Roast series (these happened a few times a year from about 1974-1984), and I started to notice that a lot of the people who appeared on the show had lived a long time.
Wondering if it were just my imagination, I started jotting down the names of the people on the dais in the various shows and clips.
The names I wrote down were: Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Nipsey Russell, Flip Wilson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dean Martin, Ronald Reagan, Howard Cosell, Don Rickles, Billy Graham, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jimmy Stewart, General Omar Bradley, Mark Spitz, Phyllis Diller, Johnny Bench, John Wayne, Ginger Rogers, Foster Brooks, Peter Falk, Sammy Davis, Jr., Johnny Carson, Paul Lynde, George Burns, Milton Berle, Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford.
This is hardly representative of the population in general. It is heavily Caucasian, heavily male, and most are entertainers.
The only thing I noticed that all had in common were that they were affluent adults at the time of broadcast. Again not representative of the population at large.
Not all had been affluent at birth however, so not all had lived their entire lives economically stress-free.
As far as weight is concerned, General Bradley (who was near the end of his life) and Don Rickles (who is still alive at 86) were the only ones who appeared overweight, and Zsa Zsa (still alive at 95) certainly was more voluptuous than is considered healthy today.
So, we’re talking about folks who lived during the meat and potatoes era, some drank and smoked, and until around the 1980s, there wasn’t an emphasis on exercising for the average person. Mark Spitz, Johnny Bench, and Sugar Ray Robinson, because of their careers, exercised and trained. Ginger Rogers was a dancer. A lot of these guys played golf in their leisure time, and while not the same as busting a nut in a gym, you do walk out in the sunshine for a few hours. I’m guessing that General Bradley, in his younger days, had to maintain a certain level of fitness. And since many of these people lived in Southern CA and were affluent, some of them had swimming pools.
Anyway, I googled the names on my list to find out if they really had lived a long time. For those still living, I used current age, which skews the average down a bit from where it will be when those five people die.
Average life span of that group: 81.5. And just to make sure the living weren’t skewing that number too much, I took them out and then the average was 81.7. Also, the same number of people died younger than 85 as lived older than 85.
The average US life span in 1980 was 74. In 2012 it was 78. So, this group beats the 1980 life span by 7.5 years and last year’s life span by 3.5 years (not much, but I think the 1980 one is more applicable to this group).
So, how to account for this? Is it affluence – the rich live less stressfully with concerns such as paying bills and medical care? Do entertainers live a long time because they’re doing what they love? (I understand that my sample isn’t even close to being scientific or random because the producers of the show chose it for me.)
What do you all think?