The anti-ageing personality

Star Trek fans will know that the Vulcan blessing goes, “Live long and prosper”. It works because “Live and long and suffer ignominious poverty like a dog” lacks a certain warmth as far as blessings go. Whatever you might read into the “prosper” part of the message dreamed up by Gene Roddenberry back in the 60s, implicit is that a long life is a blessing. Boy, was Gene a futuristic visionary! We might not be “beaming up” yet, and maybe we aren’t quite boldly going where no humans have gone before, but we sure are embracing the search for long life. Anti-ageing potions, lotions, and procedures abound but now a new study has suggested that all you really need for a long life is to have the right personality traits.

Earlier studies have already told us that personality is not something that sits separate from your biology. Just as disease symptoms are signposts pointing you in the direction of your learning, so personality is a signpost pointing back to your genetic nature. To turn it the other way, your genes determine (at least to some degree) both your physical health and your personality traits. So it would seem logical to assume that there will be certain personality types that are linked with healthy outcomes and therefore longer life.

This is the premise that researchers began from and they began their research suspecting that tough, inflexible people might live longer but were they proved correct?

The study was done on 243 centenarians who were given a personality test developed by the researchers specifically to identify genetically based personality traits. The test was called the Personality Outlook Profile Scale (POPS). These centenarians were compared to a representative baseline of the United States population.

The results showed that being tough and inflexible did not relate to long life. Instead these centenarians scored high for being optimistic, easy-going, outgoing, conscientious, and enjoying laughter.

In the end it appears that old chestnut trotted out by people justifying a certain way of living, “I’m here for a good time, not a long time” is a balloon that holds no air, because being here for a good time means being here for a longer time.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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The anti-ageing personality

Anti-ageing medicine is big business. You can’t open a door without walking into an anti-ageing conference these days. Despite all of the potions and promises a new study has found that if you want to live to be 100 then your attitude may be more important than health concerns.

Centenarians have been rare. There were an estimated 50 000 people aged 100 or over in the year 2000 but that number is expected to grow to 800 000 by the year 2050. Conventional wisdom has held that health factors will impact your chances of living to such a grand age. In this new study researchers examined almost 250 people aged over 100 to see if they could identify the exact factors that make you more likely to live longer. As well as physical tests they gave them psychological tests and looked at their social situations.

What the they found was that measures like blood pressure and blood sugar are not the strongest predictors of long life. Instead, the strongest indicators are people’s feelings about their life and their personality.

The research found that how people deal with stressful life events and cope with them are central to successful ageing.

The researchers point out that while what happens to you in life does matter, it is your perception of what is happening to you that is really important for your long term wellbeing. In turn your perception arises from your personality. It was found that people who are open and conscientious are more likely to reach 100 years. Neurotic personalities however, tended to be less likely to make that mark.

As observed by the researchers, one person confronted by a difficult situation can find a quick emotional solution whereas another may ruminate and dwell on the problem. The quick response is adaptive and healthy whereas the dark dwelling can have real and significant negative effects on health.

It is important to do health promoting things like keeping active and eating well. What this study suggests though is that having a proactive, positive personality will help you deal with life’s inevitable hurdles in an optimal way and so make your journey here that much longer and more enjoyable.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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