Jet lag and death

Thomas Lifson
In my younger years, I endured periods of coast-to-coast and even intercontinental frequent travel. For about half a year I actually  commuted between the East Coast and Japan every three weeks, managing somehow to survive the ordeal. All those frequent flier credits put me in first class for most of it, which did seem to help. A lot.

Now comes news  from the Washington Post that is giving me pause about ever resuming such a hectic travel regimen.
A study at the University of Virginia released during the height of Thanksgiving and Christmas travel seasons showed that a majority of elderly mice died while being subjected to the equivalent of a Washington-to-Paris flight once a week for eight weeks. More intense forms of jet lag sped up the death rate in the elderly rodents, the study found.
I wonder if the mice were in simulated first class, business, or coach?

Evidently, in fact, the study adjusted the hours of light and darkness to simulate the effects of travel, rather than actually shipping the rodents overseas and back. In fact, the researchers were able to study separately the effects of westbound and eastbound travel:

It is more difficult to adjust to time zone changes when flying east. The researchers found that 53 percent of elderly mice died when they were subjected to a simulated weekly flight from Washington to Paris over the eight-week study. The death rate dropped to 32 percent of elderly mice on a simulated Paris-to-Washington route, according to the study, which was published last month in the journal Current Biology. Seventeen percent of the mice in a control group died in the eight-week study.

The odd thing for me is that I have grown older I have developed the ability to fall asleep almost anytime. In fact, what little intercontinental travel I have done in the past few years has been far less painful than it was when I was younger.

On the other hand, I think that as mice and people age, we do become more vulnerable to stress. There are just fewer reserves of health and energy on which to fall back.
In my younger years, I endured periods of coast-to-coast and even intercontinental frequent travel. For about half a year I actually  commuted between the East Coast and Japan every three weeks, managing somehow to survive the ordeal. All those frequent flier credits put me in first class for most of it, which did seem to help. A lot.

Now comes news  from the Washington Post that is giving me pause about ever resuming such a hectic travel regimen.
A study at the University of Virginia released during the height of Thanksgiving and Christmas travel seasons showed that a majority of elderly mice died while being subjected to the equivalent of a Washington-to-Paris flight once a week for eight weeks. More intense forms of jet lag sped up the death rate in the elderly rodents, the study found.
I wonder if the mice were in simulated first class, business, or coach?

Evidently, in fact, the study adjusted the hours of light and darkness to simulate the effects of travel, rather than actually shipping the rodents overseas and back. In fact, the researchers were able to study separately the effects of westbound and eastbound travel:

It is more difficult to adjust to time zone changes when flying east. The researchers found that 53 percent of elderly mice died when they were subjected to a simulated weekly flight from Washington to Paris over the eight-week study. The death rate dropped to 32 percent of elderly mice on a simulated Paris-to-Washington route, according to the study, which was published last month in the journal Current Biology. Seventeen percent of the mice in a control group died in the eight-week study.

The odd thing for me is that I have grown older I have developed the ability to fall asleep almost anytime. In fact, what little intercontinental travel I have done in the past few years has been far less painful than it was when I was younger.

On the other hand, I think that as mice and people age, we do become more vulnerable to stress. There are just fewer reserves of health and energy on which to fall back.