Aging and Poverty: Longevity and Wealth

So I e-mailed a group of my more thoughtful and opinionated friends the following link:

DNA test links ageing and poverty: Scientists in Glasgow develop a new test of the ageing process, which confirms it is linked to social factors.

They responded to the article back and forth in typical jesting fashion (see below). These are my abridged thoughts:

I’d like to add my psychoanalytic interpretation: In the American capitalist culture, wealth and materialism are some of the most prized values. The failure to achieve success in their acquisition, as typified by the vast majority of people, may be the cause of the depression and anxiety we identify as being so prevalent.

Think about it: If you existed in a culture where the value of a person was measured in terms of wealth and material possessions, and you lacked these things, what would that do to an individual’s psyche? My guess: it would result in a profound neurosis, something like the collapse of the ego, due to the failures to live up to these societal indicators of value. The duress of this failure would undoubtedly cause a physical stress to manifest in all sorts of ailments.

Of course, our society doesn’t only see the value of a person in wealth and material accumulation, but mainstream media and pop-culture definitely over inflate how important these values should be perceived. Depending on your cultural influences, anything could cause a neurosis like depression if you were to fail to live up to a societal standard of value and success. Most other cultures value family, community, altruism, intelligence, religion, etc. In some parts of China culture academics seems to be the trump value, in South American cultures we find family, in Middle Eastern cultures we find piety and devotion. The list goes on. Failure to live up to these values in their respective culture would be a major blow to the ego.

My point is this: in a culture that emphasizes values such as wealth that inherently operate as a result of scarcity, it’s no wonder we have so much ‘mental illness’ such as anxiety and depression. It is impossible for everyone to possess a value that by definition is reserved for few. Yet, capitalism relies on our desire to live out this fantasy in order to consume and possess by any means possible, even if it means selling ourselves as slaves to debt.

The remedy exists in realizing that these values are culturally dictated and that your value as a person can and should be self-generated and dictated from within; and this is by no means an easy task. We navigate our world through symbols and the symbolic meanings attached to them are typically inherited from our culture: community, family, peer group, etc. It’s extremely difficult to overcome this conditioning, and I’d say that only the most genius in a society ever successfully create a system of values and meanings that are original to them and them alone.

I’ll end by saying that stress is a major cause of physical aging. The more money one has, the less one has to worry about. You may argue that accumulating that wealth may cause even greater stress, but I’d defer to a Bible verse to counter: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Now, I’m not a religious person, but I mine for wisdom where I can find it. Having money and loving money are two different animals in my book. If you can accumulate money without getting absorbed in a romance with it, I believe you will not only live longer, but you will live happier!

 

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