Positive Outlook may be Key to Longevity

Living to be 100 requires special personality traits

(RxWiki News) A long life may be a product of your genes and their influence on personality.  Genetic influences on personality traits, like positive outlook and emotional expression, were linked to living to be 100 years old.

Personality traits, like being happy and forward thinking, have been linked to living a long time.

New research shows that having a positive attitude and being emotionally expressive may be partially controlled by genetics, and those traits are common in centenarians, people who live to be 100 years old.

"Stay positive by staying active."

Researchers, led by Kaori Kato, PsyD, at Yeshiva University in the Bronx, NY, looked at the personality traits of 243 centenarians. As part of the Longevity Genes Project, Ashkenazi Jewish centenarians between age 95 to 107 were included in the study.

Those that were living alone at the time the study began, as an indicator of good health, were included.

The Ashkenazi Jewish centenarians were compared to US averages for the general population. Participants in the study were administered a standard personality test that looked at specific personality traits. 

They were also given a brief questionnaire that looked at positive outlook on life, emotional expression and spirituality, which are broader personality categories that can be influenced by multiple specific traits.

Positive attitude and emotional expression were more common traits of the centenarians studied than the rest of the US adult population.

Centenarians in this study also scored low on neuroticism and high on conscientiousness – which supports earlier research.

Neuroticism is the tendency to experience anxiety, anger, and other negative emotions.

Conscientiousness is the tendency to have self discipline and be goal oriented.

The authors concluded, “This study adds to a growing body of knowledge which suggests that centenarians may share particular personality characteristics and suggests that genetically-based aspects of personality may play an important role in achieving positive health outcomes and exceptional longevity.”

The sample in this study was restricted to Ashkenazi Jews to be able to infer genetic influences. 

The sample was genetically similar, so it rules out extraneous genetic influences on longevity. However, the restricted sample also may mean that these results are not true for all people.

The research was published in May in Aging. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

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Review Date: 
June 6, 2012