A study of over 1,600 men, aged 43 to 91, was conducted to examine how “neurotic” men did over time. The researchers used a personality test and defined a “neurotic personality” as someone who worries too much, feels anxiety or depression and reacts to stress negatively. The researchers followed the men for 12 years.
The researchers looked at how the “neurotic personality” changed over time. They compared men who were either highly neurotic or who increased in neuroticism over time to men who were mildly neurotic or decreased in neuroticism over time. At the end of the study, only 50% of the men with high or increasing neuroticism were alive compared to 75-85% of the other group.
Even a small increase in neuroticism over the course of the study led to a 40% increase in death compared to a stable person. The data was controlled for age and a number of other conditions.
Why Does Neuroticism Impact Life Expectancy?The data can’t answer the “why” question. There are a couple of theories that jump to mind – the first is stress. Neurotic people are likely to have more stress hormones in their bodies, causing all sorts of problems and complications. The other is that the lack of positive thinking may impact mortality. Future studies will look at the cortisol level of men (a measure of stress) and negative coping behaviors like smoking.
Whatever the case, if you feel that you are highly neurotic or increasing in neuroticism as you age, consider learning stress reduction and relaxation techniques to increase your longevity. Start with breathing techniques, yoga or simple meditation.
Source(s): Daniel K. Mroczek, Purdue University, and Avron Spiro III, Boston University. Personality Change Influences Mortality in Older Men. Psychological Science. Volume 19, Number 5 •May 2008.
Daniel K. Mroczek, Purdue University, and Avron Spiro III, Boston University. Personality Change Influences Mortality in Older Men. Psychological Science. Volume 19, Number 5 •May 2008.