When people live beyond 90 and are in reasonably good health, we almost always give credit to their genes, their lifestyle and the pollution-free climate of their early years. No one recognises the contribution of a person's emotional state or his personality on his/her longevity. But that has changed with a recent research, which has found that a person's personality traits like being outgoing, optimistic, easygoing, and enjoying laughter as well as staying engaged in activities plays a key role in longevity.
The research carried out at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology of Yeshiva University was published online in the journal Aging. The study involved 243 centenarians [average age 97.6 years, 75 percent women] was aimed at detecting genetically-based personality characteristics by developing a brief measure [the Personality Outlook Profile Scale, or POPS] of personality in centenarians.
"When I started working with centenarians, I thought we'd find that they survived so long in part because they were mean and ornery," said Nir Barzilai, M.D., the Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert Chair of Aging Research, director of Einstein's Institute for Aging Research and co-corresponding author of the study. "But when we assessed the personalities of these 243 centenarians, we found qualities that clearly reflect a positive attitude towards life. Most were outgoing, optimistic and easygoing. They considered laughter an important part of life and had a large social network. They expressed emotions openly rather than bottling them up." In addition, the centenarians had lower scores for displaying neurotic personality and higher scores for being conscientious compared with a representative sample of population.
"Some evidence indicates that personality can change between the ages of 70 and 100, so we don't know whether our centenarians have maintained their personality traits across their entire lifespans," continued Dr. Barzilai. "Nevertheless, our findings suggest that centenarians share particular personality traits and that genetically-based aspects of personality may play an important role in achieving both good health and exceptional longevity."
To us, the news isn't surprising because we always subscribed to the view that laughter and a positive outlook are good for not just the mind, but the body as well. These help keep harmful hormones within healthy limits and naturally, that is key to a fuller, longer life.
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