Are personality and lifespan linked?

An individual's personality could be associated with living longer, new research has suggested. Investigators at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology at Yeshiva University found traits such as being easygoing, optimistic, outgoing, staying engaged and enjoying laughter can contribute to the likelihood of a person reaching the age of 100.

Published in the journal Aging, the investigation took into account the findings of Albert Einstein's Longevity Genes Project and aimed to highlight genetically-based personality characteristics.

Nir Barzilai, the Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennett Chair of Aging Research and Director of Einstein's Institute for Aging Research, noted the team expected to find longer life expectancy associated with people who are ornery and mean.

The expert added: "But when we assessed the personalities of these 243 centenarians, we found qualities that clearly reflect a positive attitude towards life."

These individuals also tended to hold laughter dear to them and often had a large social network of friends.

Chartered psychologist Dr Jay Watts comments: "This study affirms many beliefs widely cherished by the greater public - that enjoying laughter, social connections, and an easy, outgoing nature are indicative of a happy person who, accordingly, is more likely to stick around. These traits point to a happy outlook, which is likely to reduce stress on a neurobiological level, and ensure an ongoing social network to keep an eye out for you as you age. Given stress is a risk factor for a number of diseases, it is unsurprising these people with the protective traits found in this study live longer on average.

"Whilst some of these traits may be linked to genetic predisposition, we must also wonder about the effects of life experiences, and socio-cultural background on the development of these traits. Working on ourselves allows some malleability to traits we can all too easily see as given. The results of this study invite us to think: what makes me laugh and how can i get more of that, what ways of thinking about problems allow me to let go of them, how can I be more connected to those around me.

"Apeing these traits may make us feel more alive. And whether we live to 100 or not, that can never be a bad thing."

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