Certain positive personality traits such as optimism may lead to longevity.
People with certain personality traits based in genetics such as being outgoing, optimistic and enjoying laughter may live longer, say scientists.
For the study, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Yeshiva University focused on a genetically homogenous population including more than 500 Ashkenazi Jews over the age of 95 and 700 of their offspring.
Previous findings have suggested that personality arises from underlying genetic mechanisms that may directly affect health. Now, the new study published in the journal Aging
shows that characteristics such as optimism and being easygoing may be among those traits.
“When I started working with centenarians, I thought we'd find that they survived so long in part because they were mean and ornery,” said Dr. Nir Barzilai.
“But when we assessed the personalities of these 243 centenarians, we found qualities that clearly reflect a positive attitude towards life,” he said. “Most were outgoing, optimistic and easygoing. They considered laughter an important part of life and had a large social network. They expressed emotions openly rather than bottling them up.”
The study also showed that the centenarians had lower scores for displaying neurotic personality and higher scores for being conscientious compared with a representative sample of the US population.
“Some evidence indicates that personality can change between the ages of 70 and 100, so we don't know whether our centenarians have maintained their personality traits across their entire lifespans,” added Dr. Barzilai.
“Nevertheless, our findings suggest that centenarians share particular personality traits and that genetically-based aspects of personality may play an important role in achieving both good health and exceptional longevity.”
“The main message of the study is that [although] these centenarians have a ‘nice’ personality now, that was not always the case,” opening the door to the notion that it's never too late to adopt a “can-do” spirit.