Researchers have known for decades that an individual’s perception of longevity is often a reasonably good prediction for mortality. A new study finds that major life decisions may be subconsciously affected by how long people believe they will live.
Scientists from Queen’s University discovered major life decisions such as marriage, divorce, abortion, having a child and attending university can be influenced by perceived mortality.
“Life expectancy might be driving all of these major decisions,” said Daniel Krupp, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Queen’s University math department who also has a background in psychology and biology.
The longer someone expects to live, the more time they will invest in education. If life expectancy is short, someone may decide to get married and have children sooner, or stick with the partner they are currently with rather than seek a divorce.
Although no one knows exactly how long they will live, there are many life expectancy cues not consciously processed that influence an individual’s perception of longevity.
Factors include: How healthy are they? Do they have a risky job? Are their grandparents or parents still alive? Is there a history of disease in the family?
A branch of evolutionary theory known as life history theory predicts that life expectancy influences major life decisions in humans. This theory has been used to explain animal behaviors that schedule key events to produce the largest possible number of surviving offspring (for example the famous run of the Pacific salmon).
Krupp said his findings based on population data from Statistics Canada tend to confirm this hypothesis.
His study is published online by the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Source: Queen’s University