September 16, 2008

Study: Emotional Stability Leads to Longer Life

By Drs Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden

The secret to a long life is actually pretty simple, according to recent research from the National Institute on Aging.

After tracking more than 2,300 people for more than 50 years, researchers there found that calm and active people lived longer than their counterparts.

These findings came from data collected by the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging -- the oldest running study on aging -- and were published in the July-August issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

The most recent findings looked at the link between personality traits of people and their lifespan. The data showed that certain personality traits were definitively linked to a longer life, including emotional stability, organization, discipline, conscientiousness and resourcefulness.

Certain other traits led to a shorter life: anger, emotional instability, anxiousness and depression, among them. The study concluded that "longevity was associated with being conscientious, emotionally stable and active."

This study is not new news. Most people know that happiness and an active lifestyle lead to good health. In a similar 2003 study, also published in Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers found that men with Type A personalities -- "competitive, impatient, uptight" -- had heart attacks earlier than those who did not have a Type A personality.

It is important to note that personality or activity level is not fixed or predetermined, and that it can be proactively changed by an individual.

So, if you find that you are a Type A personality living a sedentary lifestyle, seek ways to change that. Helpful tools might include formal psychiatric and psychological intervention; hobbies; a new sport; activities such as walking, tai chi or yoga; spirituality; a career overhaul; or self-help.

A great start on developing positive personality traits is the book "Learned Optimism" (Vintage, 2006) by psychologist Marty Seligman.

Hmm, it's time to do that deep breathing and go for a hike ... if you want to live to 100.

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