In preparing to write this blog, I started collecting research studies on ageing. Worldwide there are 1,000’s of studies going on all the time – mainly medically related – a lot about the demographics of ageing – more and more around the commercial value of the ‘grey’ market.
They don’t all make fascinating reading, although they are never short of words. Academics can make an awful lot out of very little, view things from every possible angle, focus on minute detail and come to most obscure insights. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the commonest conclusion of many studies is that more research is needed :-).
Just occasionally you come across something that is fun and resonates with your own common sense. Here is one report from last year that I have just got around to reading. It comes from nowhere I have heard of – Wayne State University in Michigan, USA and is a study of 1952 major league baseball players which is not a subject that keeps me awake for long. Americans are renowned for keeping sports statistics on every aspect of the game and also for collecting cards with pictures of all the major league players, so I suppose it was only natural to extend that curiosity into the longevity of the players.
Rather than looking at obvious measures of success, they focussed on the smiles on players’ faces. It must have made for an interesting conversation when the research student first proposed the idea:-
“so to start with you have collected an album of 1952 baseball cards?”
“and you’re not interested in who hit the most home runs?”
“nor who took most catches in the season?”
“nor who was the best pitcher?”
“you just want to study the smiles on their faces ??????????????”
The players’ smiles were analysed from their photographs and grouped in terms of “no smile”, “partial smile” and “toothy grin”. The lifespan of each player was then correlated with their smile – with some interesting results:-
- The “no smile” group lived on average for 72.9 years
- The “partial smile” group lived for 75 years
- The “toothy grin” group lived for 79.9 years