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Personality a factor in longevity and healthy aging

March 15, 2010


Specific personality characteristics may be important to successful aging, according to researchers who studied a group of adult children of centenarians. Other studies have shown that these personality traits promote good health and minimize damaging characteristics.

The children of people who lived to 100 years or more are generally a model of healthy aging, with lower mortality and lower prevalence of chronic diseases than other members of their birth cohort. In this study, researchers led by Dr. Thomas T. Perls of the Boston University Medical Center found that such offspring are more extraverted and less neurotic than other members of their birth cohort.

Using the NEO Five-Factor Inventory, a 60-item, self-report questionnaire, the researchers measured five personality characteristics—neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness—in 246 offspring of centenarians with a mean age of 75 years. Both men and women scored in the low range for neuroticism and in the high range for extraversion.

The researchers note that the low neuroticism and higher extraversion levels may confer health benefits. For example, people who are lower in neuroticism may be able to manage stressful situations more effectively than those with higher neuroticism levels. Similarly, high extraversion levels have been associated with greater subjective well-being, vitality, and longevity.

Reference:

Givens, J.L., et al. Personality traits of centenarian’s offspring. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009. 57:683–85.

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