Growing Young: How Friendship, Optimism, and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100

growing young book cover art

Not everyone wants to live forever, but all of us want good quality life. This book reviews some of the science on what determines longevity so everyone has something to learn from it.

What is it about?

There are no plot twists. Already the introduction to the book highlights the importance of several key factors which contribute to longevity – genetics, environmental influences, diet, lifestyle and general attitude towards life. Even more importantly, Marta talks from the start how each factor could and does play a more pivotal role in some stages of life than in others.

She briefly reviewed a ton of different, high-quality research which has been conducted through the years on how to prolong life. From nutrition, exercise and meditation, through medicines, therapies, supplements, scientifically developed and quack products – she gives a short description of how most of them came to be, why did humanity think they would work and in most cases – why they don’t/would not. 

Why live long if you are not going to enjoy it?

The core of the book is research on how longevity is promoted or respectively impaired, depending on our social situation, our connectedness with fellow humans, our happiness. Marta, the author, admitted to me that one the hardest things to write about was this: 

The part about loneliness and how it can kill us. Loneliness can shorten your life more than does obesity or a couch-based lifestyle. Just realizing how many people are lonely - it's 9 million in UK alone and in US it's 60 percent - it made me really sad. On the other hand, these emotions motivated me to work even harder on writing, because there are ways to beat loneliness. Even simply realizing that we evolved loneliness in a similar way to which we've evolved feelings of hunger, that it's natural, can help people make the first step to overcoming it.

Her book puts the longevity pursuit also in a personal perspective – both hers and in some cases, the one of the researchers whose work she reviews. Throughout the book, she admits on being obsessed with certain lifestyles which promised good health, but made her miserable, and I can only commend her open mindset to learn, improve and share her knowledge and experience with everyone else in search of ways to improve life.

This is not a self-help book

This is a book which contains numbers, statistics, references, and personal opinions of scientists, all in the effort to give us hope that our belly fat, which admittedly should be kept under control, might not be sure to kill us if we have a a good support system in the form of a healthy social life and/or a relationship to make us happy with who we are.

So if you expect solutions from this book on how to live up to a hundred, look somewhere else. If you are looking for scientific insight for ideas on which parts of your lifestyle you might want to revise and invest effort in improving, then you’re all set. 

What I liked about this book

Research references
Absolutely sufficient 100%
Structure of content
Logical 100%
Personal takes alongside data
Enjoyable 100%
Layout
I prefer chapter-bound references 90%

It might be my own confirmation bias as a plus-size woman, but I appreciated very much for once a science of wellbeing book not body-shaming large people and advising me to eat more veggies. 

Lately, we talk a lot in the public domain about the importance of mental health and yet, we still mostly focus on finding happiness on your own.

Mental health is not a goal on its own. It’s means to an end and Marta showases nicely that the end is an overall better quality of life (and potentially a longer one). Too many of the recent reads I’ve encountered, plus my dealings with psychologists, focus on individually pursuing happiness. And while it is vital for each of us to be happy with what we have on our own, appreciating and sharing this happiness, and turning it into a health benefit rather than a final state of being, is so much easier with a friend, a partner, a family or even a pet. We did evolve as a social species so it only makes sense that being social could be a game-changer for our overall health.

First time reading pre-prints

The author contacted me on Twitter. She offered me a copy of her pre-print in an exchange for a honest review. I was both happy for the chance and weary that it didn’t want to discourage a fellow writer if I didn’t like her book. I’m the happiest that her book was great and that I got to read it! It also prompted me to start a new section on this website, combining my love for books and writing here – talk about inducing happiness for health! Follow Marta at @mzaraska. Here’s a non-affiliate link to the webpage of her book – https://www.growingyoungthebook.com/

If you want me to review your book too – ping me here or on any of the social accounts, but keep in mind I also have a day-job!

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