Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/790

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of life among its members is decidedly low, a fact which can be easily accounted for. Broken rest, hard work, anxieties, exposure to weather and to the risks of infection can not fail to exert an injurious influence upon health. No definite conclusions can be arrived at with regard to the average longevity of literary and scientific men, but it might be supposed that those among them who are not harassed by anxieties and enjoy fair health would probably reach old age. As a general rule, the duration of life is not shortened by literary pursuits. A man may worry himself to death over his books, or, when tired of them, may seek recreation in pursuits destructive to health; but application to literary work tends to produce cheerfulness, and to prolong rather than shorten the life even of an infirm man. In Prof. Humphry's "Report on Aged Persons," containing an account of eight hundred and twenty-four individuals of both sexes, and between the ages of eighty and one hundred, it is stated that forty-eight per cent were poor, forty-two per cent were in comfortable circumstances, and only ten per cent were described as being in affluent circumstances. Dr. Humphry points out that these ratios "must not be regarded as representing the relations of poverty and affluence to longevity, because, in the first place, the poor at all ages and in all districts bear a large proportion to the affluent; and, secondly, the returns are largely made from the lower and middle classes, and in many instances from the inmates of union workhouses, where a good number of aged people are found." It must also be noticed that the "past life-history" of these individuals showed that the greater proportion (fifty-five per cent) "had lived in comfortable circumstances," and that only thirty-five per cent had been poor.

Merely to enumerate the causes to which longevity has been attributed in attempting to account for individual cases would be a task of some magnitude; it will be sufficient to mention a few somewhat probable theories. Moderation in eating and drinking is often declared to be a cause of longevity, and the assertion is fully corroborated by Dr. Humphry's inquiries. Of his fifty-two centenarians, twelve were recorded as total abstainers from alcoholic drinks throughout life, or for long periods; twenty had taken very little alcohol; eight were reported as moderate in their use of it; and only three habitually indulged in it. It is quite true that a few persons who must be classified as drunkards live to be very old; but these are exceptions to the general rule, and such cases appear to be more frequent than they really are, because they are often brought to notice by those who find encouragement from such examples. The habit of temperance in food, good powers of digestion, and soundness of sleep are other main characteristics of most of those who attain advanced years, and may