Are you a homebody? Stubborn to a fault? If so, congratulations — those roots of yours might just make it difficult to tear you away from this green earth long after everyone else has passed on. According to a recent study, people with those particular personality traits live longer than their more easygoing compatriots. Basically, forget your other life plans. It's time to start planning your future as a stubborn old person with a penchant for protecting their lawn from hooligans. I'm not saying it will make you live forever, but people have done much weirder things in the pursuit of immortality. (Please see: the legends surrounding Elizabeth Báthory.)
In a study published in International Psychogeriatrics, researchers interviewed the residents of nine remote villages in southern Italy where several hundred people have lived well past the age of 90. (That's at least a decade longer than the world's average life expectancy.) The idea was to see what characteristics, if any, they had in common. On top of asking the elderly about their personalities and life history, researchers asked their younger family members to describe their impressions of the older relatives. That way, the study included both the elderly person's impression of themselves and an outside perspective.
When they analyzed the data, researchers found that people over the age of 90 were in considerably worse physical health than those between 51 and 75 years old. However, the very old were in a far better place mentally, demonstrating less depression and anxiety.
In their interviews, researchers also discovered that the elderly really did share certain personality traits: stubbornness, self-confidence, optimism, a need for control, and resilience. In other words, they were domineering yet adaptable. These participants also tended to display a strong work ethic, and they felt intense bonds with their family and the land. In fact, one of the study's authors said that many of the elderly participants still lived and worked on their land, which she believed gave them a purpose in life.
"They think, 'This is my life and I'm not going to give it up,'" the author explained, according to Science Daily.
Next time someone says stubbornness like it's a flaw, you can point out that it apparently encourages people to hang on to life longer than everyone else.
This isn't the first time a study has suggested that mental health gets better with age. Cognitive decline is a serious issue, but research has actually shown that people tend to feel better about themselves and their choices as they get older. Last year, the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry published a study indicating that the elderly were more content than people in their twenties and thirties, despite all the physical ailments that come with age.
What's equally interesting, though, is that your personality really does appear to influence how long you live. A 2006 study compared the characteristics of elderly people, including centenarians, in Japan, and they found that three personality traits were associated with longevity: conscientiousness, extraversion, and openness. Just like the Italian study, researchers assumed that the willingness to adapt to new times must be important to living into very old age. (Being friendly probably doesn't hurt either.)
Finally, optimism has been linked to living longer as well. One study even predicted that the most optimistic people are 30 percent less likely to die from conditions like stroke and heart attack than total pessimists. It even makes you happier during your time on Earth, however long that lasts.
So, to recap: Adaptability, stubbornness, and optimism have been pretty clearly linked to longevity. I'm not saying these personality traits will magically extend your lifetime, but they'll probably make your life more pleasant in the long run anyway. And hey — if practicing optimism really does make you live longer, maybe we'll meet again in 100 years.