A lot of the choices that we make are governed by our personality traits and these have an effect on the various aspects of our life. A study says that the personality traits of an individual in adolescence might predict their longevity.
Studies  have revealed that the personality characteristics of individuals in midlife can predict whether they will have long lives or not. The personality traits keep changing over the course of the person’s life. This could be a result of various factors which are associated with risk of dying.
It is for this reason that researchers from the American Institute for Research-Washington DC, University of Rochester-New York, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana took a decision to look at the personality traits in adolescence like addiction and understand if they could be used as indicators of mortality risk.
The researchers studied and analyzed the personality traits of some thousands of people who studied in high school in 1960 and then tried to correlate the lifespans with the personality traits of these individuals.
People with positive personality traits have longer lives?
The data used by the research team was collected through Project Talent Study , a US based study of high school students that was nationwide. The researchers studied 1226 high school students in the U.S. which makes up 5% of the high school students in the U.S. In 1960, there was access to 377016 students in the age group of 13-18 years and who completed psychological tests over a period of 2 days. The data also included fact about the education profiles of the parents, their jobs, income and how much property they owned. Further the team had information about the personality traits of the students.
At this time, Project Talent study analyzed 10 personality traits that seemed important for the development of adolescents and their success. The traits were social sensitivity (empathy), calmness, leadership (evaluated on the basis of self-determination and responsibility), impulsivity, self-confidence, vigor (energy), sociability, tidiness (orderliness), mature personality, culture (feeling of curiosity).
The researchers in the present context then studied five traits: agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, extraversion, openness. For the ultimate analysis, the team studied the data of 26,000 students from close to 1000 schools. The records were available through National Death Index. After 48 years, it was found that around 13% of the respondents had passed away.
As per the analysis of the researchers, the individuals who were high on traits like social sensitivity (empathy), sense of curiosity, tidiness, degree of maturity but scored low on impulsivity had a less overall risk of death from any cause over the duration of 48 years.
The researchers noted that family background and ethnicity did not seem to have on this association. It was specified by the authors that in fully adjusted models, the change in a personality trait was related to 5-7% increase or decrease in risk of death over the duration of 48 years.
What Was the Explanation Behind It?
As the study was observational, the relation between personality traits and longevity was not necessarily cause-effect. Also, the sample population was not chosen absolutely randomly, they did not know about the ethnicity of the recruits, they did not differentiate in the causes of death. These limitations may have skewed the results of the study. But it can be argued that the study was strong since the data spanned over almost 50 years.
But it can be said that the association between personality traits in adolescence and longevity is surprising since adolescence is the time when the personality starts developing. They further add that change in personality over the entire duration of life is a complex phenomenon and there is considerable individual variability.
The researchers suggest that the association between personality and longevity can be explained through ways in which the personality characteristics or traits during adolescence (a period that is developmentally important) can drive personal trajectories and important lifestyle choices.
Maladaptive traits also have an effect on educational attainment. Delay occupational advancement in midlife and increase the chances of divorce and poor relationships. These are all associated with early death.