Empathy, calmness and energy are among the personality traits that predict a long life, new research finds.
These teenage personality traits predicted people’s longevity five decades later.
Along with these, people who are tidier, intellectually curious and more mature also live longer.
In contrast, people who were impulsive as teens were not likely to live as long.
Impulsive people tend to act without thinking or controlling themselves.
The conclusions come from a study that followed 26,845 people for almost 50 years, on average, starting in 1960.
All were asked about their personality, family background and later income and jobs.
The results showed that six personality factors were linked to a long life:
- intellectual curiosity,
- and maturity.
Only impulsiveness was linked to a shorter lifespan.
Personality may affect lifespan in a number of ways, the authors write:
“Life course mechanisms linking personality to poorer health outcomes include the adoption of poor health behaviours and long-term effects of wear and tear on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.
Maladaptive traits also appear to limit later educational attainment, impede mid-life occupational advancement and increase risk of divorce-social and socioeconomic factors linked to later death.”
However, it’s surprising how predictive adolescent personality can be, the study’s authors write:
“In one sense, the tracing of personality-mortality associations back to adolescence is surprising because the high school years are widely seen as a time of personality development and malleability.”
So, although people may change over the years, it is not enough to wipe out the effects of personality on longevity.
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 Epidemiology & Community Health (Chapman et al., 2019).