Psychologists studying a group of Italians aged 90 to 101 have found they share certain psychological traits.
These include being stubborn, domineering and needing a sense of control.
This might suggest you need a determined attitude to make it through to 100-years-old.
Professor Dilip V. Jeste, who led the study, said:
“The main themes that emerged from our study, and appear to be the unique features associated with better mental health of this rural population, were positivity, work ethic, stubbornness and a strong bond with family, religion and land.”
The 29 Italians the psychologists interviewed live in nine villages in the Cilento region of Southern Italy.
They were all asked a wide range of questions.
Dr Anna Scelzo, the study’s first author, said:
“The group’s love of their land is a common theme and gives them a purpose in life.
Most of them are still working in their homes and on the land.
They think, ‘This is my life and I’m not going to give it up'”.
The study found that although the nonagenarian’s physical health had deteriorated, they were in better mental health than family members four decades younger.
Here are some direct quotes from the study interviewees:
- “I lost my beloved wife only a month ago and I am very sad for this. We were married for 70 years. I was close to her during all of her illness and I have felt very empty after her loss. But thanks to my sons, I am now recovering and feeling much better. I have four children, ten grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. I have fought all my life and I am always ready for changes. I think changes bring life and give chances to grow.”
- “I am always thinking for the best. There is always a solution in life. This is what my father has taught me: to always face difficulties and hope for the best.”
- “I am always active. I do not know what stress is. Life is what it is and must be faced … always.”
- “If I have to say, I feel younger now than when I was young.”
Dr Scelzo summarised the psychological traits linked to achieving old age:
“We also found that this group tended to be domineering, stubborn and needed a sense of control, which can be a desirable trait as they are true to their convictions and care less about what others think.
This tendency to control the environment suggests notable grit that is balanced by a need to adapt to changing circumstances.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics (Scelzo et al., 2017).