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Are You Becoming Wise?
May 15, 2007

Midlife Wisdom For Men Issue #082, May 15, 2007

=========== TABLE OF CONTENTS ==========

· Help Jed Diamond Study Depression

· Are You Becoming Wise?


Written by Noel McNaughton (c) copyright 2007


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Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men.

I ran across a friend a couple of years ago, who had been having trouble sleeping. He went to his doctor, who fortunately recognized the sleeplessness as a symptom of depression, and put my friend on an anti-depressant. Most doctors would have prescribed sleeping pills, and my friend might have committed suicide by now.

Jed Diamond has studied and written about male depression, and discovered depression in men shows up differently than in women. And in men it is far more lethal. He is hoping you can take a few minutes to help him with his current research.

I think we all value wisdom. I believe it is part of becoming an Elder. Without it, we simply become elderly. If you have had adversity in your life, especially when you were young, you might have a better chance of becoming wise.

There are about 1350 words in the articles in this newsletter, which should take you about four and a half minutes to read.




Recommendation From A Reader

I just finished, and enjoyed: U-Turn: What If You Woke Up One Morning and Realized You Were Living the Wrong Life? by Bruce Grierson.

Your readers may find it interesting and encouraging.

By Googling, I found these links: - about the book and author and,9171,1607269,00.html - the author's essay on the last page of a recent TIME magazine.

Best wishes. Jean W. Canada


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Help Jed Diamond Study Depression

My friend Jed Diamond, Author of several books, including The Irritable Male Syndrome, needs some help from us.

Here is a note I got from him a couple of weeks ago:

Dear Noel,
As you know, for the last 5 years I have been working on my PhD and developing a study that will help us understand why many men experience depression differently than do women.

"Women seek help, men die." This conclusion was drawn from a recent study of suicide prevention. They found that 75% of those who sought professional help in an institution for suicide prevention were female. Conversely 75% of those who committed suicide in the same year were male.
Since depression is a significant risk factor for suicide, and men receive less treatment for depression than do women, it is vitally important that we have a better understanding of the way depression manifests itself in males.
My study has just now been approved by my dissertation committee at Touro University International and I will shortly be recruiting men and women for the study.

This is where you can help. I will be posting the research questionnaire on-line. It takes about 15 minutes to fill out and will give us important new data that can help save lives.

For the study to be most valid we need at least 200 depressed men and 200 depressed women (depression will be assessed using a standard evaluation questionnaire).

We want as many non-depressed men and women as we can recruit as well, but the most important number is finding 200 depressed males.

Please let me know if you can help us spread the word. I think with enough help and support from those interested in gender and depression, we can develop a study whose results can help millions.

I will, of course, be happy to share our findings with you.

Best wishes,


Editor's note: Jed sent me a link for the page where you can do the survey, but when I was installing a new email program the other day, I lost it.

If you would like to give Jed a hand, please email him at Noel


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Are You Becoming Wise?

I have not met many people I would consider wise. Smart, maybe, or kind, but wisdom is more than that.

Psychologists and philosophers have had a hard time defining it. And they fear studying it, as it seems so nebulous and "squishy", from an academic point of view.

You could probably define it as well as anyone, but if you are like me, you would have trouble doing so. It is easier to recognize than talk about.

Nevertheless, some psychologists have studied it over the years, and in a recent article in the New York Times, Stephen S. Hall wrote a lengthy article about it. Hall is the author, most recently, of Size Matters: How Height Affects the Health, Happiness and Success of Boys .

One psychologist, Vivian Clayton, looked through the Bible, and other ancient sources of wisdom, and had this to say: "What emerged from that analysis was that wisdom meant a lot of different things. But it was always associated with knowledge, frequently applied to human social situations, involved judgment and reflection and was almost always embedded in a component of compassion."

Clayton identified three general aspects of human activity that were central to wisdom - the acquisition of knowledge (cognitive) and the analysis of that information (reflective) filtered through the emotions (affective).

Other academics did their own studies, and came to basically similar conclusions, although they had their own pet 'models' of wisdom.

One thing none of the academics considered was spiritual growth. I suppose it was too hard to study, but in my experience, spiritual growth helps a great deal in discerning what is important and what isn't.

Does Getting Older Make You Wiser?

We know the phrase "older and wiser", which usually means we tried something and it didn't work the way we wanted, so we have gained some valuable experience. But simply getting older apparently doesn't necessarily mean we will be wiser.

Paul B. Baltes, who headed the "Berlin Group", developed some questions to measure wisdom, and had 700 people answer them. Not one person got top scores across the board. They also found no evidence that wisdom, as they defined it, necessarily increases with age.

So how do you become wiser?

According to some research, getting older helps, because as we get older, our awareness of time becomes more acute, and we are able to separate the wheat from the chaff of daily life a little better. We "don't sweat the small stuff" as much. We also concentrate more on relationships and less on achievements as we age, which helps us recover from setbacks a bit easier. We also dwell on the positive more, and less on the negative, whereas younger people dwell equally on both.

Adversity when you are young can help you become wiser

Researchers at Stanford University show that when non-human primates are exposed to mild adversity early in life, the parts of their brains that regulate emotional, neuroendocrine and cognitive control are enhanced. In a human, these would lead to wisdom in later life.

The Berlin group reported that the roots of wisdom can be traced, in some cases, to adolescence. Many of the people in the Berlin Aging Study survived two world wars and a global depression; the elderly people who scored high on the "Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale" developed by Florida University's Monika Ardelt, also reported considerable hardship earlier in their lives.

Becoming Wiser Is Good For You

We all know grumpy old men, who seem to be mad at the world. In fact something I discovered, in myself and my peers when I hit middle age, is that I became more irritable for a few years. A lot of those men die earlier than they would if they had a different attitude. Being angry is hard on your health.

Laura Carstensen of Stanford University did some research on people's emotional states of mind under all kinds of every day situations, and discovered that people who didn't handle their emotions well at the beginning of her study were more likely to be dead within ten years.

Her's was a fairly small sample, but in 2002, Becca Levy, a psychologist at Yale University, did some data analysis compiled by researchers for the Ohio Longitudinal Study, who have been following aging in a cohort of people since 1975. She found that older people who had a more positive attitude toward old age lived seven and a half years longer than those who didn't.

Test Your Own Wisdom

It may seem a little facetious to try to measure wisdom, but if you are going to study it, you have to come up with some kind of measurement. Florida University's Monika Ardelt, a sociology professor at the University of Florida, developed one, and you can try it here:

The Wisdom Scorecard

Have fun!


An angry wife screamed at her husband, "Before we married, I was going out with men much more intelligent than you!"
"I can believe that" he retorted. "Obviously they were too clever to make the mistake I did."

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I Need Your Questions and Feedback!

Got comments? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.

Just email your suggestions and/or questions to . I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks.


Well friend, that's it for now. Again, if you enjoyed this and/or found it useful, and know of anyone else who might like it, please pass it forward. And if you have questions or recommendations, I would love to hear from you.

All the best, Noel

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