The “Will To Live”

Various news articles are reporting on a study which found that age-related disease is not necessarily an accurate indicator of which senior citizens will reach extreme old age. If I understand the article in Forbes correctly, a better indicator of who will live a long time is whether they remain disability-free. The article quotes Dr. James S. Goodwin, director of the Sealy Center on Aging at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, as saying “…’when people go on to become disabled, that’s the bad sign,’ he added. ‘Because it’s disability that interferes with your life and your ability to thrive — to be physically and mentally able to reach your potential. So really, these things we call diseases could be thought of as risk factors for disability. Because when people become disabled, that’s when they become truly sick. And that’s when they stop living long'”(Forbes, “Disability Stronger Predictor of Longevity Than Disease Is”, 2-11-2008)

It sounds like what these studies are confirming is a “common sense” idea: it’s not just your physical health that determines how long you will live, but your so-called “will to live”. People who become disabled would tend to loose this will to live because they are no longer able to enjoy their lives, and probably become dependent on others for their survival. For a human being, this state is probably, from a mental and emotional stand-point, so untenable that most of us may invariably loose our will to live. If the choice to live in the present is a “basic choice” that necessitates one’s future choices, then I think this makes sense. If one has nothing to look forward to in the future but pain and suffering, then there would be no motivation to make that basic choice to live.