May 7, 2009

Focused, social kids, better adult health

Children, especially girls, who can stay focused and don't sweat the small stuff have a better shot at good health in adulthood, U.S. researchers said.

The study, published in the journal Health Psychology, found that for all the participants, superior attention spans and having a more positive outlook in youth affected health the most.

Certain characteristics already evident early in life are likely to spark positive or negative emotions, and also influence biological and behavioral responses to stress, lead author Laura D. Kubzansky of the Harvard School of Public Health said in a statement. Supporting this idea, we found that children who were able to stay focused on a task and react less negatively to situations at age 7 reported better general health and fewer illnesses 30 years later.

Kubzansky and co-authors tracked 569 individuals from the National Collaborative Perinatal Project from age 7 to their mid-30s. Trained observers rated the 7-year-olds on 15 different behaviors and these behaviors were assigned to three different personality attributes: the ability to stay focused on a task and persist in solving a problem, the tendency to react negatively to situations and the tendency toward shyness, acting withdrawn and having difficulty communicating.