Despite western men getting more physical activity (on average) than women, we still manage to die 5 to 10 years younger. So obviously exercise alone isn’t the answer to a longer life. Other research shows the fitter you are in your mid life (using aerobic fitness factors) the lower your risk of developing degenerative diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimers and heart disease (Arch Int Med. Published online August 27, 2012). So perhaps exercise does help quality of life (not being sick).
Genetic factors (including testosterone and the associated aggression and risk taking behaviour, read: dumb decisions) apparently account for around 30 per cent of the longevity equation while environmental factors kick in for the rest. These include smoking, food decisions, alcohol, exposure to pollutants and toxins and stress.
Stress is the interesting one on the list because it is not the stress itself that can shorten your life, but how you react or deal with the stress. Women tend to involve other people (usually women) by sharing their problems and seeking solutions. Whereas blokes tend to deal with it solo, either fighting on or moving on. The Fight or Flight Response. This reaction is fueled by testosterone, especially in your younger years, and perhaps becomes your habitual default position later on even when your testosterone has waned.
However it works, it isn’t working very well. As one who is prone to sweating the small stuff I can tell you changing how you initially respond to stress (gut churns, focus narrows, rational thought ceases, breathing becomes shallow, heart rate increases) is an uphill battle. Deep breathing, centering, counting to ten, imagining being bathed in a healing white light – these are very simple to practice in the absence of stress, but darned hard to program when the excrement hits the ventilator.
I don’t have a magic answer, but I do understand the importance of the social aspect of dealing with stress. So even if you feel like strangling someone or kicking the garden hose (never ends well), hold off and try and explain to someone (perhaps even yourself) why the situation is so challenging and what might be the worst possible outcome. Usually it is not too drastic, and by the time you have considered this, the initial testosterone surge is easing and the other strategies can help smooth out the remaining bumps. Not sure about the white light, however.
If you get good at this, you will have more years to practice it even further.