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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Personality Secrets to a Long Life

Researchers Find Centenarians Optimistic, Extroverted, Positive; Some Became That Way Later in Life

Longevity & Personality Study continued...

In general, he found those who live to 100:

  • Are outgoing
  • Are positive -- not the type to talk ill of others
  • Laugh often
  • Express emotions
  • Are conscientious
  • Are not neurotic

The link he found is just that, Barzilai says. "It doesn't mean there is a cause-and-effect relationship."

One problem, he says, is they don't have -- and can't have -- a comparison group. "Their friends died years ago, and younger people won't work [as a comparison group]," he says.

One surprise? Some of the 100-year-olds, he found out, were not always easygoing and agreeable, he says. He found that out while talking to some of the centenarians' children.

"There is some adaptation with age," he says. "You try to focus on the good things and not on the bad."

"If they are getting hit [with problems]," he says of his centenarians, "they roll with the punches and they smile. When they are healthy and they get to 100, they are very agreeable.''

The easygoing personalities didn't hold across the board. He tells of one woman's daughter who confided that her mother was mean.

Later, her siblings declined to even talk to Barzilai for the study because they had nothing to do with their mother.

Personality & Longevity: Perspective

"I really believe these are some of the mechanisms [of longevity]," says Daniela Jopp, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Fordham University.

Her own research on centenarians has found some similar links. She reviewed the study findings.

"We know personality has a strong genetic background," she says. Those who live to 100, Jopp says, "seem to have a very special psychological makeup."

Those who age successfully adjust their expectations about health, she has found. They accept a few aches and pains, she says. They don't focus on complaints, such as having trouble sleeping.

Based on her work and that of others, Jopp says for now she can give this advice to those who want to make it to 100: "Don't get too stressed out," she says.

"People who are optimistic and look positively into the future have not only a better time, but it may help them live longer," she says.

In her research, she finds those living to 100 tend to be well aware of their limited life expectancy, but to continue to make plans anyway.

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