I find longevity fascinating—why is it that some people make it to their 90s feeling great, while life unfairly shows others the door when they're decades younger? There's been much speculation about whether a long life is the result of genes or lifestyle, but no clear answers.
A new study of centenarians finds that one of their secrets may be a certain type of personality—one that's outgoing, optimistic, easy-going and engaged. Researchers with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine analyzed the personality traits of 243 adults with an average age of 97.6 years and found that they were likely to exhibit these traits.
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., director of Einstein's Institute for Aging Research and co-corresponding author of the study, in a statement. "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." The research was published in the journal Aging.
Although the researchers believe that these positive personality traits are genetic, that certainly doesn't mean that you can't acquire them if you try, right? And learned optimism and sociability seem likely to bestow longevity just like the inherited kind apparently can. If you could use some help on the optimism and overall happiness fronts, check out the many books by Martin Seligman, who I wrote about recently in this post on why having a purpose in life equals a healthier brain.
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