The Secret to Living a Longer, Fuller Life

New Study Reveals Centenarians Have Positive Attitude

Written by Alex Reid
Posted June 4, 2012

Diet, exercise, avoiding unhealthy habits, genetics, and even luck are all factors associated with living a longer life. But did you know happiness plays an important role in our longevity? According to a recent study in the journal Aging, maintaining a happy disposition will also help you live a longer life.

Despite all the advances in medical science and technology, living to 100 is a rare event.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 53,000 centenarians in the U.S. making up .2% of the population.

So why do so few live beyond 100?

Until recently, researchers have largely focused on the genetic components that allow centenarians to reach the age 100.  But researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine as part of their Longevity Genes Project, with the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology of Yeshiva University have found that personality traits like being outgoing and optimistic may also contribute to longer lives.

For the study, researchers developed a 98-point questionnaire to screen for evidence of key personality traits. It was administered to 243 Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews over the age of 95.

Researchers selected to study Ashkenazi Jews because they are genetically homogeneous, making it easier to spot genetic differences within the study population. The average age of those studied was 97.6 years old and 75 percent were women.

"When I started working with centenarians, I thought we'd find that they survived so long in part because they were mean and ornery," said Dr. Nir Barzila, study co-author, director of Einstein's Institute for Aging Research and chair of its division of Aging, in a press release.

However according to Dr. Barzila, the study found qualities that clearly reflected a positive attitude towards life. Most were outgoing, optimistic, easygoing and considered laughter an important part of life. Many had a large social network and expressed emotions openly rather than bottling them up.

Dr. Barzilai did add that, “Some evidence indicates that personality can change between the ages of 70 and 100, so we don’t know whether our centenarians have maintained their personality traits across their entire lifespans.”

“Nevertheless, our findings suggest that centenarians share particular personality traits and that genetically-based aspects of personality may play an important role in achieving both good health and exceptional longevity.”

The good news is, no matter how old you are or how you currently live your life, there is always time to change and there is always time for a little extra laughter.

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