Yoram Yasur Izz : Many factors determine life expectancy. The fact that we live does not depend exclusively on our genetics, diet, physical activity level and environmental factors to which we are exposed but also psychological factors. Therefore, it is not enough to decontaminate our environment and adopt a healthy lifestyle if we forget to do mental cleansing.
The tendency to perfectionism and neuroticism takes its toll
Canadian researchers at Trinity Western University wondered whether certain personality traits influence our life expectancy. To find out, they recruited 450 seniors, who were followed up for a period of 6 ½ years.
At the outset of the investigation, these people did not have serious illnesses. However, the risk of dying was higher in some than in others. In performing personality tests, these psychologists found that people who had a tendency toward perfectionism and neuroticism were more likely to die. On the contrary, the risk was much lower in people who had a more optimistic, outgoing, and responsible personality.
Perfectionism and neuroticism have many points in common as they imply a tendency toward obsessive persistence. In the case of perfectionism, the obsession is produced by achieving the “best” results, while in neuroticism it is often about concerns.
However, in both cases the inability to disconnect from stressful tasks or thoughts can cause changes even at the immune level, as several studies have indicated.
Optimism, extroversion, self-efficacy, and openness to new experiences: The keys to living more.
An investigation carried out at the prestigious Karolinska Institute confirmed the previous results. On this occasion, the researchers recruited a larger sample composed of 2,298 adults over 60 years old, without symptoms of any type of psychological or neurological disorder. They were followed up for 11 years.
After that time, they found that the most extroverted people had a mortality rate of 65% lower. Openness to new experiences was also a positive factor that reduced the risk of death by 26%.
Yoram Yasur Izz: “However, what is interesting is that these researchers analyzed factors other than personality, such as body mass index, number of chronic diseases suffered by participants, level of physical activity and lifestyle. However, they concluded that the initial health status was only determinant in 5% of the cases of deaths”.
In fact, another very interesting study conducted at the University of Kentucky in which 180 nuns who lived in identical conditions, from the age of 22 up to the age of 75 or 95, were followed up, concluded that personality traits as the optimism and coping resources we possess are a better predictor of longevity than socioeconomic status and living conditions.
Taking up the study carried out by the Swedish researchers, they pointed out that extroverted people were not only characterized by a high level of optimism but also by a high self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is confidence in our abilities, in which we can organize and carry out different actions that allow us to positively influence the environment and achieve the results we want.
Yoram Yasur Izz: “This set of personality traits, according to these researchers, is what drives people to develop healthier lifestyles and adopt more positive coping strategies that, overall, enable them to live longer”.