Eighty Years Along, a Longevity Study Still Has Ground to Cover

The New York Times:

After reading “The Longevity Project,” I took an unscientific survey of friends and relatives asking them what personality characteristic they thought was most associated with long life. Several said “optimism,” followed by “equanimity,” “happiness,” “a good marriage,” “the ability to handle stress.” One offered, jokingly, “good table manners.”

In fact, “good table manners” is closest to the correct answer. Cheerfulness, optimism, extroversion and sociability may make life more enjoyable, but they won’t necessarily extend it, Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin found in a study that covered eight decades. The key traits are prudence and persistence. “The findings clearly revealed that the best childhood personality predictor of longevity was conscientiousness,” they write, “the qualities of a prudent, persistent, well-organized person, like a scientist-professor — somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree.”

“Howard, that sounds like you!” Dr. Friedman’s graduate students joked when they saw the statistical findings. On a recent visit to New York, Dr. Friedman and Dr. Martin did both seem statistically inclined to longevity. Conscientiousness abounded. They had persisted in a 20-year study — following up on documentation that had been collected over the previous 60 years by Lewis Terman and his successors — despite scoffing from students: Get a life!

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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