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Harvard Study: Aging Liberal Men Have More Sex than Conservative Counterparts

July 15, 2014 in Blogs

By Allegra Kirkland, AlterNet

One of the longest-running studies of adult development in history delivers four surprising findings.

Between 1939 and 1944, researchers at Harvard University recruited 268 of the best and brightest members of the student body to participate in a long-term psychological study. The purpose of the Harvard Grant Study—so called for its original funder, chain-store magnate William T. Grant—was to determine which traits best predict a successful life. To track a wide range of factors, including income, physical and mental health, and happy marital and parental relationships, the chosen students (all men, as Harvard wouldn’t become coed until 1977) participated in regular interviews, physical and psychiatric exams, and surveys with researchers. The surviving participants are now in their 90s, making the Grant Study one of the longest-running prospective studies of adult development ever conducted. Triumphs of Experience, a recent book published by George Vaillant, who directed the study for more than three decades, reveals some of the most interesting findings.

1. Beware of Alcohol Abuse

On its own, this statement isn’t too surprising; it’s long been known that sustained heavy drinking can lead to severe health problems. But Vaillant, who calls alcoholism a “disorder of great destructive power,” insists it has other equally significant, devastating consequences. For example, alcoholism is the single strongest cause of divorce between the Grant Study men and their wives. The Harvard researchers also found that it was strongly coupled with neurosis and depression, with these psychological traits following alcohol abuse rather than preceding it. And together with cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse was the #1 cause of morbidity and death among the study participants.

2. Liberals Have More Sex

In one of the oddest discoveries, researchers found that aging liberals had much more active sex lives than their conservative counterparts. Though political ideology had no bearing on overall life satisfaction, the conservative participants ended their sex lives at around age 68 on average, while most liberal men continued having sex regularly well into their 80s. Vaillant was himself puzzled by this, noting that he’d consulted urologists about the findings but “they have no idea why it …read more


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