If family members tend to die in their fifties, does that indicate a genetic component? Maybe. It is also possible, that the previous generations of family members, those who tended to die in their fifties, might have come to that as a matter of expectations learned from their ancestors.
A friend of mine was talking about his family history in this manner today. Hearing him say that, reminded me of the chicken and egg conundrum. Which came first. I have often contemplated how much of our aging process is simply because our mind “knows” we are supposed to age and does so.
Here is an interesting finding from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2002:
“Recent study findings by researchers at Yale University in Connecticut suggest that looking forward to growing old could actually help you to live longer. Results of the 23-year-long study of people aged 50 and over revealed that those who had a positive attitude towards aging lived roughly seven and a half years longer than participants who were dreading reaching their twilight years. The apparent life-extending benefits of a positive attitude remained even after the researchers accounted for other factors that can influence longevity, such as health, gender, and socio-economic status. In comparison, other healthy attributes such as maintaining low blood pressure and cholesterol are thought to extend life by just 4 years.”
In a book I was reading the other night I read about the prisoners of war during the Korean War. About half of the Americans in captivity died from feeling hopeless. They were not ill but rather what we might call deeply depressed or in despair. None of the Turkish captives died. This indicated a difference in outlook that gave the Turkish soldiers a better chance of surviving captivity.