Self-control is linked to aging more slowly, a new study finds.
People who are better able to control their thoughts, feelings and behaviours have biologically younger brains and bodies at age 45.
This means that people with higher self-control look younger and are able to walk faster.
Those who find themselves somewhat lacking in self-control, though, should not despair.
Self-control is not set in stone and can be learned.
In addition, midlife is not too late to make changes like starting to exercise and quitting smoking.
The conclusions come from a study of almost 1,000 people in New Zealand who were tracked from birth.
The aim of the study was to see whether self-control helped people prepare for old age.
Dr Richmond-Rakerd, the study’s first author, explained:
“Our population is growing older, and living longer with age-related diseases.
It’s important to identify ways to help individuals prepare successfully for later-life challenges, and live more years free of disability.
We found that self-control in early life may help set people up for healthy aging.”
The people in the study were tracked from around the age of 3-years-old until they were 45.
As children their self-control was measured and as adults their brains and bodies were tested for physiological signs of aging.
The results revealed that people with higher self-control as children walked faster, had younger looking faces and healthier bodies overall as adults.
Professor Terrie Moffitt, study co-author, said:
“Everyone fears an old age that’s sickly, poor, and lonely, so aging well requires us to get prepared, physically, financially, and socially.
We found people who have used self-control since childhood are far more prepared for aging than their same-age peers.”
Improve your self-control
There are a variety of science-backed ways to improve your self-control.
→ Here are 10 more studies on what self-control can do for you.
→ Read on: How to change your personality.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Richmond-Rakerd et al., 2021).