Personality Type vs. Longevity. One Of The Big 5 Will Keep You Alive:
Chasing down the more esoteric aspects of health can be a tricky proposition.
For most people it comes down to the new fad diet in the checkout aisle.
But it can be so much more than that.
It might not be just the food that you eat and the genes that you have,
But a part of you that regulates almost everything else that isn’t genetic.
And the mystery-element researchers from the University of Helsinki found: Personality…
Another Take On The Eternal Question:
So Longevity has been an important goal ever since crazy alchemists started mixing up elixirs thousands of years ago for their kings.
But as modern medicine creates its own elixirs to extend life,
We run into 2 more problems:
1) Healthspan / Quality of Life
2) The problems we create for ourselves.
If you want to live longer, you want those years to be good ones, right?
Well, you can’t go too overboard with “good times”, because even if science solved everything,
One of the problems that would remain is: You.
And so The Short Answer for the current work is if your personality scores low on conscientiousness, then your risk of early mortality and a shorter, less-healthy life goes up by at least 14%.
Read on to find out more…
The History of Personality Type:
So as long as Science has been trying to figure out anything related to our psyches,
There have been personality tests.
Whether it was Fortune-Tellers, Tarot Cards, Fortune-Cookies, Horoscopes,
Some part of us was looking for a greater causality through our connection to the collective-unconscious.
Fast-forward a few decades, and we get the first batch of slightly more-Sciency personality tests,
With the Type System. Types, A, B, C.
Type A were hard-charging, punctual, coffee-achievers, all destined to have stress-induced heart-attacks by age 55.
Then we got Type-D recently which showed us the serious problems associated with rumination, and unhealthy-levels of anxiety, depression, and unproductive-introversion.
After that, depending on how you count resurgence based on popularity, we got the fortune-cookie style 16-types of the MBTI,
With its 3-4 ultra-rare categories that everyone wanted to be, and perhaps at-least some confirmation-bias baked-in to the system.
The Big 5 Personality Types Brings The Science:
But now, we have a system that is backed up by a little-bit more psychometric data, and is the most clinically-robust so-far.
It’s The Big 5, or sometimes called O.C.E.A.N. (no this is not a 60s movie about an underwater spy organization)
And those letters stand for:
-And also by-inference, their opposites on the scale.
But the important thing about this system is that since it’s the one most-founded on actual clinical psychometric data,
It’s probably the closest thing we’re going to get to any actual measurement before psychometric fMRI brain-scanning becomes a reality.
So it looks pretty reliable for now.
Here’s What The Psychology Health-Nuts Found:
So with that all in-mind, a team of researchers looking for the roots of health-outcomes outside genetics,
Went looking for maybe not psychosomatic medicine, but at-least Behavioral medicine.
And they found it in the health-outcomes people tend to get as a function of their results on The Big 5 personality test.
In that work, Markus Jokela and his colleagues looked at more than 130,000 subjects over the course of an average of 7 years, and as-long as 22 years.
What they found is that people low in Conscientiousness have a 14% higher risk of early-mortality,
This rate exists even after controlling for things like Physical Activity, Alcohol Intake, Education, and BMI.
Furthermore, even after these controls, they also found that people on the lowest-end of the Conscientiousness scale also live 6 Years Less than people on the other extreme.
As we’ve talked about before, a certain amount of health-anxiety is actually correlated with longer lifespan.
But Wait, Personality Type’s Effect On Lifespan Gets Even Worse!:
Not only were people on the low end of Conscientiousness with their lack of foresight, diligence, and planning less likely to live longer,
They were also more-likely to have a really messy end.
Because Jokela’s science-cartel also found that the least-conscientious people on the scale also had a minimum of 2 years at the end of their lives full of many types of physical disability when compared with subjects on the other end of the scale.
So it’s likely their Quality-of-Life or Health-Span as it’s sometimes called, was also lower; not just their total lifespan.
Such was the size of the low-conscientious cohort that if they all just got to average,
The entire population would then have an average-lifespan of 1.3 year longer than before.
But there is a tiny light at the end of the tunnel.
Even though regular HT readers know there is a lot more to Living To 100,
Team Jokela found there were just a few problems most-correlated with the lower mortality that could really make a difference if-changed.
2) High BMI
3) Physical Activity
But Wait, What If I Can’t Change My Personality?:
And that’s where the little light comes on.
Because there is this relatively-new school of psychology called CBT.
And the foundation it’s based-on is the principle that
1) You can Change Thoughts and they will Change Behavior
2) You can Change Behaviors and they will Change Thoughts
You can essentially run the equation of your mind & actions in both directions and it can produce positive improvements as you change either.
So with that said, you Can change a few things you do.
You don’t have to worry so much about fixed-quantities as Carol Dweck would warn you off of,
Just try taking a few baby-steps on the big issues and you can make progress.
Forget about your character, Change your Habits.
And you do this because you want to live.
You want to live longer and better.
But Wait, There’s More:
Now a few of the factors Science has uncovered in the hunt to Live To 100 are the ones on this list:
1) Nutritional Quality
2) Total Daily Calorie Intake
3) Cardiovascular Exercise
4) Consistent Mental Activity
5) Avoiding or Quitting Smoking, and
6) Ongoing Quality Social Networks
But there are many others that increase lifespan over in the post about overactive brains, and in other posts here.
-Almost all of which are based in Behavior.
Not Personality, Not Genetics.
If you’re willing to take even a small amount of action, and be motivated even a tiny bit for a great cause,
Action Precedes Inspiration, Motion Creates Emotion:
You can improve yourself too, one baby-step at time.
And an interesting thing might happen for you, too.
What if the psycho-somatic health guys are right?
What if low-conscientiousness is caused in some part by Environment & Experience?
And what-if improving the routines of health, one tiny step at a time can slowly change a vicious-cycle into a virtuous-cycle?
Then what if an improved-body and body-chemistry creates an improved-mind?
And before you know it, you’re at the top of your game, living longer than you (or your doctors) ever expected?
Then there is no telling what a little behavioral-change can do to help the otherwise unfortunate-association between personality type and lifespan; CBT FTW!
• Source Study: J.Personality – Personality, disability‐free life years, and life expectancy: Individual participant meta‐analysis of 131,195 individuals from 10 cohort studies
• More Coverage: The Big 5 Personality Test