The outgoing gorilla

Most people aspire to age well and live a long life. Provided you are well most likely you would be happy to live as long as possible. There are all sorts of potions and lotions that promise to offer you anti-ageing, life prolonging qualities but what might surprise you is that your personality also affects your longevity. The latest study to emphasise this was done on gorillas.

In evolutionary terms gorillas, along with chimps and orang-utans, are our closest relatives. Although they cannot make the sounds of human speech, gorillas are capable of understanding spoken languages and they can learn to communicate in sign language. They communicate with each other by using gestures, body postures, facial expressions, vocal sounds, chestslaps, drumming, and odours. Gorillas also share with humans a range of emotions including love, hate, fear, grief, joy, greed, generosity, pride, shame, empathy, and jealousy. They laugh when they are tickled and cry (with sounds, not tears) when they are sad or hurt. The capacity to feel these emotions to varying degrees in different circumstances means that gorillas have definite personalities and researchers have found that a gorilla’s personality links to how long they will live.

Gorillas can live for more than 50 years and to study the connection between personality and lifespan almost 300 gorillas were assessed by zookeepers, volunteers, and researchers across the United States over the course of 18 years. Their personality was measured using standard techniques for studying humans and primates. The results showed that out of four personality traits that included dominance, extraversion, neuroticism, and agreeableness only one was linked to longevity.

It was found that gorillas who were extraverted had longer lives than other gorillas. Extraversion is defined as including behaviours like sociability, activity, play, and curiosity. This study supports human research also showing that extraverts live longer. Clearly, something about being an extravert confers a survival advantage.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

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

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