Objective: The aim of this study was to identify unifying themes for longevity in individuals at or over 100 years of age in Iowa.
Population: All individuals over 100 years of age were sent a survey by the state of Iowa, United States.
Design: Qualitative study of the responses to the mailed survey.
Materials and Methods: All individuals over the age of 100 were mailed a survey by the state of Iowa. They were asked, “ what is the key to living to 100 years of age.” Patients or their surrogates responded to the survey in a freehand written method. The results of the written responses were qualitatively placed into groups of responses based upon themes. These groups included the following: family involvement, friend involvement, religion, avoiding smoking, avoiding drinking, living life in moderation, positive attitude, humor, an active lifestyle including exercise, work, or hobbies, adequate sleep, lack of medications, a “clean life” proper nutrition, good genetics, giving to people or to the community, communing with nature, use of supplements, good medical care, and moderate drinking.
Results: 72 surveys were sent out with 59 responses. All positive responses were categorized based upon comments from free text. Top three positive responses mentioned were with active lifestyle, religious involvement and positive attitude with a percentage of positive comment of 56%, 37% and 32% respectively. Family and friend involvement was also important with 20% and friend involvement of 15% of positive responses. Abstinence from smoking and drinking only accounted for 12% each. Remaining comments were stated by less than 10% of respondents.
Conclusion: The qualitative study revealed that active lifestyle, religious involvement and a positive attitude were the common responses from centenarians on the key to longevity. It appears that attitude and spirit seem to have stronger associations with patient’s perceptions of long life than risk factor modification. These findings are consistent with other findings of centenarians in Asia and Europe where an active mind and positive attitude seem more important than physical components in maintaining long life. This qualitative study also reveals that medical care, supplements, and risk factors modification appears to play a lower role for individuals over 100 years of age.
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