Boston University issued the following news release:

Researchers identify personality traits

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine’s (BUSM) New
England Centenarian Study have noted specific personality traits
associated with healthy aging and longevity amongst the children of
centenarians. The work was conducted in collaboration with scientists
from the National Institute on Aging. These findings currently appear on-
line in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Previous research on siblings and offspring of centenarians have
documented that exceptional longevity runs strongly in families. Studies
of the offspring of centenarians showed that their mortality is 120
percent lower than other members of their birth cohort and that they
also have markedly lower prevalence rates and delayed onsets of
cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus. Because
personality traits have been shown to have substantial heritable
components, the researchers hypothesized that certain personality
features may be important to the healthy aging observed in the offspring
of centenarians.

Using the NEO-Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) questionnaire, measures of
the personality traits for neuroticism, extraversion, openness,
agreeableness, and conscientiousness were obtained from 246 (125 women
and 121 men) unrelated offspring of centenarians with an average age of 75.

Both the male and female offspring of centenarians scored in the low
range of published norms for neuroticism and in the high range for
extraversion. The women also scored comparatively high in agreeableness.
Otherwise, both sexes scored within normal range for conscientiousness
and openness, and the men scored within normal range for agreeableness.

According to the researchers, personality traits in the offspring of
centenarians appear to have distinctive characteristics that may have
important implications for their longevity. “Interestingly, whereas men
and women generally differ substantially in their personality
characteristics, the male and female offspring tended to be similar,
which speaks to the importance of these traits, irrespective of gender,
for health aging and longevity.

It’s likely that the low neuroticism and higher extraversion will confer
health benefits for these subjects,” said senior author Thomas Perls,
MD, MPH, director of the New England Centenarian Study. “For example,
people who are lower in neuroticism are able to manage or regulate
stressful situations more effectively than those with higher neuroticism
levels. Similarly, high extraversion levels have been associated with
establishing friendships and looking after yourself,” he said.

Perl’s added, “These findings suggest that personality is an important
characteristic to include in studies that assess genetic and
environmental determinants of longevity. Such studies are currently underway.”

This study was supported in part by grants from the National Institute
on Aging (NIA): K-24, AG025727 (TP), K23 AG026754 (Paul Beeson Physician
Faculty Scholar in Aging Award, DT), and the Intramural Research Program
of the NIA.


Of course, this makes one wonder how much we can either a) modify extraversion and neuroticism, or b) find other ways to get the benefits that these traits bring us. Maybe introverts can further develop close and abiding friendships and the joy and fun that comes with these whether you are extravert or not. And people who are prone to anxiety and distress (neuroticism) can learn to find their center?    BG