Want to Live Longer?……Start Worrying

Most of us want to live long worry-free lives.  But what if I told you worrying could make you live longer?

live longerIn 1921 a Standford University psychologist, Lewis Terman, began studying the lives of 1500 of the brightest boys and girls he could find.  Detailed information was archived about their lives, from how many siblings they had to how many books were in their house, to how cheerful they were.

When Terman died in 1956, his study was continued by others. In 1990, Friedman and Martin began piecing the data together to come up with factors that determined what contributed to living long lives.

A new book, “The Longevity Project”, by Friedman and Martin looks at the 1500 study participants and follows them over 80 years to determine what the magic recipe is to living longer.

One interesting fact was that cheerful optimistic children were less likely to live longer than those who worry.  It was explained that the children who were inherently optimistic and cheerful ended up taking more risks in their lives.  It was theorized that these individuals never thought anything bad would happen, and so they ended up engaging in more risky behavior like smoking and drinking.  Their hobbies were also more risky.

The individual personality traits that were the strongest indicator for longevity were prudence, persistence, and being well-organized. Conscientious, responsible people also developed better social relationships and achieved more.  Because of these qualities they were given more opportunities in life which led to being more fulfilled.  These individuals had more stressful jobs, but when these same people found meaning in their work, the stress was not a negative factor in their health. (There must be tons of science professors and engineers in their 80’s!)

long life

They also found that physical activity, while important, does not have to be as strenuous as once thought. It seems that finding an activity you enjoy has just as much benefit (especially in your middle age) as routine exercise at the gym.

Genetics accounted for about 30% of your longevity puzzle.

In a previous post, there was a fun test that assessed your daily habits to see how long you would live.  The following assessment can be used as another tool.  Together these two tests should give you a very good idea of just how old you will get. (provided you don’t get hit by a bus….)

This assessment tool was part of an excerpt from “The Longevity Project”

Self-Assessment: A Key Personality Component (taken from NPR news)

To assess a core aspect of personality, decide how well each of the following statements describes you. Be honest, thinking about yourself as you usually are, compared to others who are the same sex and about the same age.

1. I am always prepared.

1 — very inaccurate
2 — moderately inaccurate
3 — neither accurate nor inaccurate
4 — moderately accurate
5 — very accurate

2. I leave my belongings around.

1 — very inaccurate
2 — moderately inaccurate
3 — neither accurate nor inaccurate
4 — moderately accurate
5 — very accurate

3. I actually get cold when I think of something cold.

1 — very inaccurate
2 — moderately inaccurate
3 — neither accurate nor inaccurate
4 — moderately accurate
5 — very accurate

4. I enjoy planning my work in detail.

1 — very inaccurate
2 — moderately inaccurate
3 — neither accurate nor inaccurate
4 — moderately accurate
5 — very accurate

5. I make a mess of things.

1 — very inaccurate
2 — moderately inaccurate
3 — neither accurate nor inaccurate
4 — moderately accurate
5 — very accurate

6. I get chores done right away.

1 — very inaccurate
2 — moderately inaccurate
3 — neither accurate nor inaccurate
4 — moderately accurate
5 — very accurate

7. I have sometimes had to tell a lie.

1 — very inaccurate
2 — moderately inaccurate
3 — neither accurate nor inaccurate
4 — moderately accurate
5 — very accurate

8. I often forget to put things back in their proper place.

1 — very inaccurate
2 — moderately inaccurate
3 — neither accurate nor inaccurate
4 — moderately accurate
5 — very accurate

9. I like order.

1 — very inaccurate
2 — moderately inaccurate
3 — neither accurate nor inaccurate
4 — moderately accurate
5 — very accurate

10. I shirk my duties.

1 — very inaccurate
2 — moderately inaccurate
3 — neither accurate nor inaccurate
4 — moderately accurate
5 — very accurate

11. I follow a schedule.

1 — very inaccurate
2 — moderately inaccurate
3 — neither accurate nor inaccurate
4 — moderately accurate
5 — very accurate

12. I am persistent in the accomplishment of my work and ends.

1 — very inaccurate
2 — moderately inaccurate
3 — neither accurate nor inaccurate
4 — moderately accurate
5 — very accurate

How to compute the total score:

Each item scores from 1 to 5. But for items 2, 5, 8, and 10, you need to reverse the scores. So if you said that “I leave my belongings around” was “very inaccurate” in describing you (a 1), change your score to its opposite, which is a 5. If you gave yourself a 2 you would change this to a a 4 and so on. If you said this was neither accurate nor inaccurate, you would leave your score as it is — a 3.

Then eliminate item 3 and item 7. Item 3 (“I actually get cold when I think of something cold”) is an irrelevant filler item. Item 7 is a lie scale, in more than one sense of the term. For the remaining ten items, simply sum your scores.

A total score will fall somewhere between 10 and 50. This scale is a good measure of conscientiousness. Total scores between 10 and 24 indicate very low conscientiousness (the lowest quartile or 25 percent in a recent sample of adults). Scores between 37 and 50 suggest exceptionally high conscientiousness.

Another way to understand your own conscientiousness and to make it a more valid assessment is to get the viewpoint of someone else who knows you well. (In 1921 and 1922, Dr. Terman didn’t ask the children about their personalities. Instead he asked their parents and teachers.) People who know you well are generally good judges of your personality, and sometimes the perspective of someone else can be enlightening, helping us to see ourselves more objectively. So use the same scale, but this time, have a friend rate you.

…….taken from The Longevity Project by Freidman and Martin

So if you’ve already planned your funeral, chances are you won’t be needing them right away 🙂



Categories: health, health and wellness, healthy living, stress

Tags: , , , ,

12 replies

  1. I’ve spent the last ten years trying to worry less, and now I hear I should be worrying more. I worry I’ve wasted so much time.

  2. Boy..I never would have thought….I am quite the worrier! But ironically I worry the most about old age.

  3. I am scared to take the test! I will have to come back later when I have braved up :). Great post!

  4. As Mr. Spock would say, “Fascinating” — and he lived into his 300s as I recall. All kidding aside, thanks for reminding us that living is a complex activity and being conscientious (altho’ it makes for a less exciting life) has a lot going for it!

  5. Very interesting theories they are testing and thank you for the post about it.

  6. Learning how to live healthy is really important for everyone. Excellent post thanks for sharing. I really enjoy reading your blog.

    Stop by our Easy Lifestyle website sometime and check us out.

    Ways to Live a Healthier Lifestyle

  7. Great column. For more information about The Longevity Project and to read the Introduction (free), go to
    http://www.howardsfriedman.com/longevityproject/

    There is also a Facebook page with lots of discussion about The Longevity Project.
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Longevity-Project/151456004873773?ref=ts#!/pages/The-Longevity-Project/151456004873773?sk=wall

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