do anxious people live longer

Do Anxious People Live Longer?

As I write this post, we are in the heat of summer here in Oklahoma. The heat index has been setting records this week. It has ben HOT!

The heat does funny things to people. I have seen a dramatic increase in patients suffering from essentially anxiety. Generally, they do not openly say they are anxious. It is usually disguised in a somatic complaint such as chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, or shortness of breath.

Anxiety is a part of human nature. Human nature has the tendency to take a thought and go to the darkest place with it. A headache can quickly become a tumor or stroke in some people’s imagination. I am not immune to this tendency.

A few years ago, I had a spell of vertigo. Vertigo will cause you to get dizzy with just about any kind of motion. For a few moments, I was convinced that I must have had a blood clot that would eventually lead to a stroke! To say the least, I survived, and it made me slightly more sympathetic to my patients with vertigo.

In the book The Longevity Project, the authors found that having a little bit of anxiety or concern correlated to longer life. They dismissed the theory that the happy-go-lucky guy lives the longest. It seems that those who have some level of anxiety tend to make healthier choices. For example, maybe they do not take that extra drink or start smoking. They are a little more reserved with their choices.

So it would seem that a little anxiety is probably healthy for you, but too much anxiety can make you ill. I have seen people worry themselves into ulcers or heart attacks. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs him down, but an encouraging word brings him joy.”

I think that anxiety and fear are very similar. Most anxiety is caused from fear of loss. We tend to be anxious when we fear loss of health or loss of an opportunity or loss of a relationship or loss of material things.

Some fear is healthy. For instance, fear of falling will keep most people from leaning over the edge of a tall building. Our fears do tend to set limits for us.

I have a slight fear of heights. Anything passed the second rung on the ladder is orthopedic height (you fall, you break!) for me. I will never work on a high-rise building. Fear of getting a speeding ticket and having my insurance rates go up keeps me from driving too crazy.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” My fear (or respect of God) sets limits on my choices. It keeps me from doing stupid things. It sets healthy boundaries for me. It gives me a framework from which to make choices.

Some fears can be paralyzing. These usually occur when I have high levels of anxiety, or fear of loss of something. When I drill down on this, I find when I am overly anxious, I have placed that something in the center of my heart. It consumes me and becomes a horrible master. Anything in the center of my heart other than Jesus (the fear of the Lord) will tend to lead to some level of unhealthy anxiety.

I do think having some anxiety is just part of life. If you are human, you will have some anxiety. It would seem a little anxiety might lead to a longer life. The next time you are feeling anxious, do a heart check. Make sure that you truly have Christ in the center of your heart and I believe He will give you peace that surpasses all understanding.