Want to Live Longer? Stop Worrying

Christine Dell'Amore
National Geographic News
April 10, 2009

If you want to live to a hundred, you'd better lighten up.

Children of centenarians—who usually inherit both longevity and personality traits from their parents—are on average more outgoing, agreeable, and less neurotic, according to a new study.

That's because being affable and more social confers health benefits, according to lead study author Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University Medical Center.

It may be that less neurotic people are better able to manage or regulate stressful situations than the highly neurotic, Perls said.

"We've seen centenarians go through huge amounts of stress, and time and time again they've shown us how … it doesn't get to them."

Likable People

The Boston University team gave 246 unrelated children of centenarians a questionnaire that measures neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

Rather than directly testing the elderly, the team looked at both male and female offspring who had an average age of 75.

"They're at the stage of their lives when they're cooking along at 110 percent," Perls said. "There's a number of things we can study in them that we can't" in centenarians.

Both males and females scored in the low range for being neurotic and the high range for being extroverted.

(Try out Perls and colleagues' life expectancy calculator.)

Women scored high in agreeableness, while men scored normal. Both sexes tested normal for conscientiousness and openness, according to the study, published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Continued on Next Page >>




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