Positive Traits And Life ExpectancyResearchers wanted to know if positive personality traits mattered for life expectancy. We certainly know that negative personality traits (like anxiety or stress) can impact life expectancy by reducing the number of years a person lives. But what about positive traits? Could a person’s personality alone predict life expectancy?
Conscientiousness And Living LongerResearchers used a personality test that measures conscientiousness. They basically break conscientiousness down into three sub categories: self-control, organization and industriousness. They theorized that people who scored strongly in these categories would, essentially, just have healthier lives. Conscientious people, they figured, are more likely to take care of themselves, get a good education, have a good job, be in a good marriage and more. All these factors have individually been shown to matter for life expectancy (but are hard to measure: questions like “how good is your marriage?” are difficult to answer and compare). If they could measure personality instead, then life expectancy could be predicted from that.
Organization and Industriousness are Winners for Life ExpectancyPeople who scored high in conscientiousness lived an average of 2 to 4 years longer. Researchers found this out by comparing data from more than 20 studies. The total number of people in the combined analysis was over 8,900. They found that conscientious people were less likely to be smokers and more likely to have stable jobs and marriages. The most important elements of conscientiousness were organization and industriousness.
Other Personality Traits That Helped Life ExpectancyThey also found that the following traits seemed to increase life expectancy (but not enough to say they are definitely linked to longer life expectancy): thoroughness, reliability, deliberation, competence and dutifulness.
How To Become More ConscientiousIn the study, the researchers reported that people can increase their conscientiousness. This usually happens after a major life event, like a marriage or a new job. In general, people’s level on conscientiousness is stable over time, meaning that people don’t generally change from being conscientious to not conscientious and then back again.
But I’m not convinced that an individual can’t change. I think that, if you wanted to, you could become more conscientious. You just need to put forth a good bit of effort. Think about how you can work on and develop the healthy personality traits in this study. Just pick one and try your best to improve. See what happens. It may sound boring to be “conscientious” all the time, but four more years is worth it.
Source(s): Kern, Margaret L.; Friedman, Howard S. Do conscientious individuals live longer? A quantitative review. Health Psychology. Vol 27(5), Sep 2008, 505-512.
Kern, Margaret L.; Friedman, Howard S. Do conscientious individuals live longer? A quantitative review. Health Psychology. Vol 27(5), Sep 2008, 505-512.