You are part of an extraordinary research project that studies the journey from childhood to the present day. No other study is able to link teacher ratings of participants when they were in elementary school to their physical health 40 and 50 years later. Lifestyle, Culture, and Health (LCH) members were all kids who grew up in Hawai‘i, so our study captures the cultural diversity of the islands. Most other studies like ours focus on people in other places or on the mainland. Findings from LCH tell us about the similarities and the differences between the mainland and Hawai‘i in these pathways to health.
General Health Measured at the Clinic
To get a picture of the general physical health of LCH members, we combine each person’s values from measurements and a blood test taken at the clinic. Lower scores on this measure of general health indicate better health, such as lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower BMI (a ratio of weight to height).
Lifestyle and General Health
When we use the physical health measures in the clinic we find that on average, at age 50, women were healthier than men. Men and women who smoked less, exercised more, and were less overweight, were also healthier.
Childhood Behaviors Linked to Later General Health
Members of LCH who, when they were in elementary school, were more obedient, self-reliant, honest, and careful (that is, were more conscientious) compared to the rest of their classmates were more healthy 40 years later. This finding is similar to findings for the mainland, but the LCH study is especially important. No other study has such a long time-span from childhood to mid-life, or the cultural and ethnic diversity of LCH members. Because of this, we can study questions that no other study can.
Trauma and General Health
Research on the mainland shows that traumas in childhood, such as experiencing or witnessing physical violence, are linked to mental and physical health problems later in life. Thankfully, traumas were rare for LCH members. Even so, more conscientious children were less likely to experience trauma as teens and young adults. Those who experienced less trauma were healthier at age 50.
Measures of Healthy Aging
You’re as old as you feel, right? Using the two clinic visits, 10 years apart, we are studying different measures of physical aging, called biological age, which may or may not be the same as how old you feel.
One measure of biological aging is telomere length. Telomeres are protective caps at the end of chromosomes, the parts in our cells that contain our DNA. Telomeres get shorter every time the cell divides until the cell dies, so they are a way of measuring the aging of our cells. We are measuring telomere length from blood samples obtained at the clinic visits.
With the yearly telephone interviews, we are looking at which parts of your thinking and reasoning stay the same and which parts change over time. This will help us learn how our minds can stay strong even as we age. By coming to both clinic visits and completing phone interviews, LCH participants give researchers a way to see how both our bodies and our minds change together as we age. This is cutting-edge research, so we may be in for some surprises. Stay tuned!
Thank You for Your Contribution to this Research
We are grateful to every member of the Lifestyle, Culture, and Health Study for their valuable participation in these studies. LCH is making groundbreaking contributions to the science of health and wellness.
LCH is helping future generations in Hawai‘i by discovering life paths that lead to better health and well-being. If you have never had a clinic visit, have not had your second clinic visit, or would like to join us for a telephone interview, please call the team in Honolulu at 808-432-4688.
Please review our publications and presentations lists to learn more about the activities and results of the project.