How to Live Long like Betty White

At an age when many people are slowing down, 88-year-old Betty White is still going strong. The veteran TV and movie actress, best known for her roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s and The Golden Girls in the 1980s, has continued to appear on screens large and small over the past two decades. Her varied roles have allowed her to broaden her comic appeal to a large audience, and she'll reach new heights this coming May when she hosts the late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live.

Why would an actress squarely in the senior-citizen camp agree to host a show known for its raunchy, kooky, impromptu brand of humor portrayed by much younger actors and actresses when she could just as easily find more "age-appropriate" work? White herself would probably answer, with a chuckle, "Why not?" Indeed, some experts might even make the argument that it's White's highly developed sense of humor that's responsible for her long life in the first place.

Not convinced? In 2007, a team of researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology released to the American Psychosomatic Society the results of a years-long study of roughly 54,000 adults from all walks of life. The conclusion: Those who had a good sense of humor lived longer than those who were rather cheerless. In addition, for those study subjects with cancer, the longevity-boosting effect of a good sense of humor was even greater than in the general population.

While there's no solid guarantee that having a good sense of humor will mean a longer life, the concept does make sense. Studies have demonstrated that people who suffer from anger and depression die sooner than others, either by their own hand or as a result of an immune system compromised by negativity. Folks who know how to roll with the punches, and who find many things amusing, are better equipped to cope with whatever life brings.

So go ahead and watch a funny movie, share a laugh with a loved one, and smile as much as you possibly can. You may not necessarily live to a ripe old age like Betty White, but you'll be sure to enjoy all the years you do have left that much more.


American Psychosomatic Society,