Is Positivity the Key to a Longer Life? Expert Insights 2023
The population of individuals reaching the age of 100 or older in the United States has seen a twofold increase over the past decade. Many centenarians attribute their remarkable longevity at least in part to their positive outlook on life.
For instance, 103-year-old Roslyn Menaker shared with The Guardian that “happiness, joy, appreciation… a positive outlook” are the reasons behind her long life. Ruth Sweedler, also 103 years old, revealed to CNBC Make It that she received praise for her cheerful attitude during her upbringing.
While older adults often feel that maintaining a positive attitude has contributed to their longevity, the connection between personality and aging is more intricate, as explained by David Watson, a former professor of personality psychology at the University of Notre Dame.
Watson argues that the impact of positivity alone might be overemphasized. Instead, he suggests that other personality traits are closely linked to a longer life.
- Rising Centenarian Population:
- Centenarians in the U.S. have doubled in the last decade.
- Positive Attitude and Longevity:
- Centenarians often credit their longevity to a positive outlook.
- Some seniors emphasize the importance of happiness, joy, and appreciation in their lives.
- Personality’s Role in Aging:
- Relationship between personality and aging is multifaceted, says David Watson, former personality psychology professor.
- The Five Factor Model:
- Understanding personality through the Five Factor Model: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism.
- Conscientiousness and Longevity:
- Conscientious individuals exhibit better self-care habits.
- They tend to consume alcohol moderately and maintain balanced nutrition.
- Lower accident rates and healthier behaviors are linked to conscientiousness.
- Increasing Conscientiousness:
- Conscientiousness can be cultivated over time.
- Workshops and practices can enhance self-regulation.
- The Value of a Positive Attitude:
- While positivity alone may not be the sole contributor to longevity, it still plays a role.
- Agreeableness can be influential, particularly in coping with stress.
- Psychological Resilience:
- Resilient individuals have quicker recovery times.
- They can rationalize challenging situations and restore equilibrium.
- Holistic Approach to Longevity:
- A combination of conscientiousness, agreeableness, a positive attitude, and a healthy lifestyle can lead to a longer and more satisfying life.
Examining personality through the lens of the Five Factor Model, which categorizes traits into five key areas—openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—Watson highlights conscientiousness as the personality trait most associated with a longer lifespan. This is likely because highly conscientious individuals tend to take better care of themselves, making healthier lifestyle choices such as moderate alcohol consumption and balanced nutrition.
Watson also emphasizes that conscientiousness can be cultivated with time, with conscientiousness workshops aiming to enhance self-regulation abilities. Taking actions such as punctuality and consistently following through on commitments can help increase conscientiousness.
Nonetheless, Watson clarifies that a positive attitude is not without merit. Agreeableness, another personality trait, can also influence longevity, particularly in terms of effectively coping with stressful situations. Psychologically resilient individuals tend to recover more swiftly from challenges by reassuring themselves that the situation is manageable, thereby restoring equilibrium.
In conclusion, a combination of conscientiousness and an agreeable disposition, along with a healthy lifestyle and the ability to bounce back from adversity, can contribute to a longer and more fulfilling life.