Two personality traits may hold the key to living longer: stubbornness and optimism, research suggests.
Scientists looking into the secret to longevity examined nine remote villages in the Cilento region in southern Italy, where hundreds of residents are over 90 years old, UPI reports. The study then focused on 29 of them who were between 90 to 101 years old.
While the seniors had poorer physical health than their younger family members, they did have better mental health. Dr. Dilip Jeste, professor of psychiatry and neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and senior author on the study, said, “There have been a number of studies on very old adults, but they have mostly focused on genetics, rather than their mental health or personalities.”
The main themes that emerged from our study, and appear to be the unique features associated with better mental health of this rural population, were positivity, work ethic, stubbornness and a strong bond with family, religion and land.
Love of the land was particularly important. Anna Scelzo, a mental health worker in Chiavarese, Italy and one of the authors, added, “The group’s love of their land is a common theme and gives them a purpose in life. Most of them are still working in their homes and on the land. They think, ‘This is my life and I’m not going to give it up.’”
Older seniors also had significant self-confidence and decision-making skills compared to people in their 50s, 60s and 70s, the researchers found.
“This paradox of aging supports the notion that well-being and wisdom increase with aging, even though physical health is failing,” Jeste explained.
The authors intend to conduct more work into the matter, and will keep monitoring the participants.
Jeste said, “Studying the strategies of exceptionally long-lived and lived-well individuals, who not just survive but also thrive and flourish, enhances our understanding of health and functional capacities in all age groups.”
The study was published in International Psychogeriatrics.