Studies involving people in their 80s and 90s show up surprising facts
The purpose of increasing lifespan cannot merely be to extend life; it should be to improve its quality as we get older. Longitudinal studies throw light on how we can do that.
India’s ancient science of well-being, Ayurveda, avers ‘aapthopasevi bhavet aarogyam’ which translates to ‘love everyone as your own and good health shall be yours’. Of course, Western scientific discourse does not give much credence to such maxims. When one thinks of the reductionist medical science composed of statistics, one really wonders if medicine is really a science. One reads in the media, as also in the so-called science journals, about many studies that give diametrically opposite results with the passage of time, often depending on the robustness of the study.
“This makes one healthy,” says a study which is immediately overturned by another study which says: “Ha, it does not!” These dribs and drabs are making people lose faith in short-term cross-sectional cohort studies.
Longitudinal observational studies running into decades are the bedrock of Indian wisdom which I do not intend to call science. Curiously, there are a couple of very long-term (in the context of Western science) studies in Western science which have been observing two groups of individuals for nearly eight decades. One was the Grant Study, involving 284 Harvard sophomores, which started in the 1930s and has spent more than $20 million over the years, overseen by more than three people at different times since the beginning. There is another equally long study conducted at Stanford, called the Terman Study, which collected initially 1,444 children selected from many schools in the area with an idea of studying geniuses.
One of the most famous longitudinal studies was the MRFIT (Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial) study. It analysed risk factor data in two groups of healthy men—one with intervention to set things right and, another, a control group. Finally, the study ended up making a mockery of the risk factor hypothesis which is being sold in our medi-business netting billions of dollars. MRFIT elegantly showed that, while ‘final risks’ of premature deaths were legitimate and everywhere, there are no truly ubiquitous risk factors.
When many people around the world are living into their 10th decade, their lives continue to evolve and often become more fulfilling than before. Now, George Vaillant is taking the Grant Study ahead, following the subjects of the study into their 90s, documenting, for the first time, what it is like to flourish far beyond conventional retirement. The Study reports on all aspects of male life, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies and alcohol use (its abuse being by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study’s subjects). Triumphs of Experience, Vaillant’s latest book, shares a number of surprising findings.
For example, it says: “People who do well in old age did not necessarily do so well in midlife, and vice versa. While the study confirms that recovery from a lousy childhood is possible, memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength. Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70, and physical aging after 80 is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to age 50. The credit for growing old with grace and vitality, it seems, goes more to ourselves than to our stellar genetic makeup.”
What do all these studies show? “Quit smoking, stop drinking, exercise, keep warm and healthy relations with your friends and family, and know that money doesn’t necessarily make you happy. But, most importantly, keep in mind that you will transform and progress constantly until you die.”
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. ” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS.
The trade group representing institutional investors urges Securities and Exchange Commission not to weaken plans to make auditors publicly accountable for their work
An industry group, which represents some of the US' largest investors is urging regulators not to back away from plans to require auditors to sign the financial statements they prepare for companies.
In my 13th August "Trade" column, I wrote of a struggle between the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), which regulates the accounting industry, and the Securities and Exchange Commission over reforms to auditor disclosure. The PCAOB, and many accounting reformers and investment groups had pushed for this change.
The accounting industry and the SEC have resisted. The negotiations have been going on for years.
In a letter dated 15th August, Jeff Mahoney, the general counsel for the Council of Institutional Investors, a non-profit that represents investment organizations with more than $3 trillion in assets under management, wrote, "to express our surprise and disappointment in the report earlier this week in the New York Times that the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has decided to dramatically weaken" the reforms.
The bodies are coming to a compromise, with final rules slated to come out next month. As part of the compromise, the accounting firms will be required to disclose who the lead audit partner is, but the partner will not be required to sign the audited financial statements, according to a person familiar with the decision. It's not yet decided in what manner the auditing firms will disclose the lead engagement partner's name.
The Supreme Court declared that all coal mining rights between 1992 and 2008 were assigned illegally by the government in a process that lacked transparency in the absence of a competitive bidding system or auction
The Supreme Court on Monday has said all coal block allocations since 1993 till 2010 before pre-auction era have been done in an illegal manner. However, the apex court said, further hearing is required to determine whether there is a need for cancelling 218 coal block allocations.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha said, the coal block allocation done by screening committee was not fair and transparent. "All allocations were done in illegal manner and suffers from vice of arbitrariness. No objective criteria was followed and guidelines were breached in coal block allocations," the Bench said.
The Supreme Court examined alleged irregularities in the allocation of about 194 coal blocks in Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh to private companies and parties during 2004 to March 2011.
The Court said it would appoint a high-level committee of retired judges to identify those who will be affected by its order. The Bench also said it will address the issue of the legal consequences of its ruling on 1 September 2014, when it creates a committee to identify those whose allocations will be cancelled.
Earlier, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report submitted in the Parliament in August 2012, has stated that there had been an estimated loss of Rs1.86 lakh crore due to coal block allocation without auction from 2005 to 2009.