Do the good really die young?
No, they live longer.
Over three hundred years ago Daniel Defoe, famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe, asserted, “The best of men cannot suspend their fate: The good die early, and the bad die late.” We did not find this to be true at all, instead finding that many of the most agreeable, thoughtful, and helpful Terman subjects, including Linda, were among the longest living.
That said, we saw again and again that it was not the feel-good aspects of having friends that was associated with long life. Rather, it was the more hands-on pieces that mattered most— being in contact with family members, doing things with friends, and helping others. When taken in total with the many other characteristics of long life— being conscientious, being in a good marriage, having healthy habits, and working hard in a successful career— Defoe’s adage really crumbles. While his catchy saying has become a truism, repeated endlessly over the years in movies, songs, and philosophies, there’s no real evidence that the good die young. In fact, although there are always some exceptions (which are therefore notable), generally speaking, it’s the good ones who can actually help shape their fate; the bad die early, and the good do great.
That covers “good people” in the sense of kind and ethical. What about “good” in terms of successful or “good at what they do”?
They live longer too:
The results were very clear: those with the most career success were the least likely to die young. In fact, on average the most successful men lived five years longer than the least successful!
The theory might not hold true for rockstars: they do die young, though the study did not take quality into consideration.
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