2 Personality Traits Linked to Long Life

Your personality does more than define who you are. It can also be a sign of whether you will live a long time--or die young.

It's long been accepted by psychologists that personality is best described by five broad traits:

  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Emotional stability
  • Openness to experience
When it comes to longevity, the two most important traits appear to be emotional stability and conscientiousness. Why? Over time, good health and wellness appear to be linked to these two traits.

Emotional stability
When someone is emotionally stable, he handles stress well. The opposite of this is something psychologists call neuroticism, which is a tendency toward negative thinking. People who are neurotics are often anxious and moody. The glass is always half-empty. This kind of negativity has been linked to higher mortality in a number of previous studies. Led by Daniel Mroczek, a team from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., tracked 1,600 middle-aged and older men for 12 years. Using a standard measure of neuroticism, the researchers recorded not only how neurotic the men were at the start of the study, but also whether they got more or less neurotic over time, reports Senior Journal. In addition, they tracked the mortality risk for those men over an 18-year span.

The men whose neurotic tendencies increased over time had a higher risk of dying at an earlier age. Stress and worries made them anxious and this increased their risk of dying, mostly from cancer and heart disease. However, when men with this neurotic temperament were able to calm down and handle the stress more productively, they had a longevity rate that rivaled emotionally stable men.

Someone who is conscientiousness is orderly, industrious, reliable and conventional. Various studies conducted by Brent Roberts from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign found that when the cluster of traits that comprise a conscientious personality increase over time, it leads to improved health and longevity.

Why? "First, conscientious people create life paths for themselves that contribute to better health. That is, they are more successful in their careers, earn more money, have more stable families, and socialize more--all factors known to be linked to health," Roberts explained in Psychological Science. He tracked college-educated women from age 21 to 52 and found that those who had been more conscientious in college were less likely to divorce and had more children than women who had been less centered. Those with conscientious personalities have greater job stability and job satisfaction. Also, people who are reliable and work hard tend not to do stupid things, such as taking drugs, driving drunk, smoking or having sex with the wrong partners.

The study findings were published in the May issue of Psychological Science.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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