Conscientious people live longer, research finds.
People who are conscientious are more careful, efficient and self-disciplined — and they aim for achievement.
In fact, an orientation towards achievement and a preference for order were the strongest predictors of a long life.
Highly conscientious people live an average of two to four years longer.
They are also less likely to smoke or drink and experience lower levels of stress.
Conscientiousness is one of the five major aspects of personality, along with agreeableness, extraversion, openness to experience and neuroticism.
Professor Howard S. Friedman, the study’s co-author, said:
“The major finding is that this conscientiousness aspect of personality is indeed reliably predictive of mortality risk across studies.
This seems to be as important as most commonly assessed medical risk factors, few of which are psychological.”
The research rounded up the findings of 20 separate studies on over 8,900 people around the world.
Being more organised and responsible was consistently linked to better health.
Professor Friedman said:
“Not only do conscientious individuals have better health habits and less risk-taking, but they also travel life pathways toward healthier psychosocial environments – such as more stable jobs and marriages – and may even have a biological predisposition toward good health.”
People can become more conscientious, said Dr Margaret L. Kern, study co-author:
“There is some evidence that people can become more conscientious, especially as they enter stable jobs or good marriages.
We think our findings can challenge people to think about their lives and what may result from the actions they do.
Even though conscientiousness cannot be changed in the short term, improvements can emerge over the long run as individuals enter responsible relationships, careers and associations.”
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 of Personality (Kern & Friedman, 2008).