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Longevity

age, life, instances, persons, spirits and cold

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LONGEVITY, the continuance of life beyond its ordinary period of duration. The term of human life does not in gene ral much exceed 80 years, but it is well known that instances occasionally occur of persons living to the age of 100 years and upwards. Such instances, however, have not excited that general attention, 'which from the nature of the subject might be expected, and it is only of late years that any extensive collection of them has been formed, or attempts made to ascertain the circumstances and situa tions in whirls the different individuals preserved their lives to an age so much beyond the usual lot of man. The most extensive catalogue of this kind, is that published by J. Easton, which, though very defective, contains the names and some particulars of 1712 persons, who had attained to a century and upwards, hay ing died at the following ages ; From 100 to 110 years . . . 1310 110 to 120 277 120 to 130 84 130 to 140 26 140 to 150 7 150 to 160 . 3 160 to 170 2 170 to 185 3 1712 The circumstances which chiefly tend to promote longevity may be reduced to the following heads : 1. Climate. A large majority of the re corded instances of great age were inha bitants of Great Britain or Ireland, of France, Germany, or the north of Europe, from which it appears, that moderate or even cold climates are the most favoural.

ble to long life. Heat relaxes and enfee bles, while cold consolidates and strength ens the human frame. The diet also of hot countries is less nourishing than that of cold ones ; and there is generally a greater disposition, and greater oppor tunities to indulge in various excesses in the former, than in the latter. There are however a few instances of natives of very hot climates having attained to great age, but they have been chiefly negroes in the West Indies and America, whose ages were probably not very correctly ascer tained.

2. Parentage. Being born of healthy parents, and exempted from hereditary disease, are circumstances evidently fa vourable to the duration of life ; and nu merous instances warrant the opinion, that longevity prevails in some families more than in others, or that descent from long-lived ancestors is one of the circum stances which give the greatest probabili ty of attaining to extreme old age.

3. Form and size of the individual. It is generally admitted, that persons of a compact shape, and of a moderate stature, are the most likely to live long. Tall persons frequently acquire a habit of stooping, which contracts the chest, and is a great impediment to free respiration; whereas the short sized find little diffi culty in keeping themselves erect, and are naturally much more active, by which the animal functions are retained in a state of greater perfection ; the only dis advantage attending a short stature is, that it is frequently accompanied With corpulence, which is rather unfavourable to long life.

4. Disposition of afind. Nothing is more conducive to longevity than to pre serve equanimity and 5ood spirits, and not to sink under the disappointments of life, to which all, but particularly the old, are necessarily subjected. This is a point which cannot be too much inculcated, as experience continually shows that many perish from despondency, who, if they had preserved their spirits and vigour of mind, might have survived many years longer. Neither the irritable, who are agitated by trifles, nor the melancholy, Who magnify the evils of life, can expect to live long. Even those who suffer their strength and spirits to be exhausted by severe study, or other mental exertions, seldom reach great age. In the list be fore referred to, of 1712 persons who lived about a century, Fontenelle (who did not quite reach 100 years) is the only author of any note ; and his great age is •zscribed to the tranquil ease of his tem per, and that liveliness of spirits for which he was much distinguished. Among those who have devoted themselves to the study or practice of music, a profes sion which encourages cheerfulness of mind, instances of great age have been very frequent.

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