Optimism & Laughter Leads to Long Life

If you want to live a long life, stay positive and keep laughing, say researchers who have found that centenarians are often extroverts who embrace the world from an optimistic and carefree perspective.

The findings stem from the Longevity Genes Project, launched by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. All the participants in the latest study were over the age of 95, and all were of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish descent.

“We really were not sure what got them to their advanced age,” admitted study co-author Dr. Nir Barzilai,

What is it exactly that makes people live to 100 years and over? Dr. Nir Barzilai, co-author of the Longevity Genes Project, director of Einstein’s Institute for Aging Research and chair of its division of Aging Research questioned “Was it their personality, or something more in their genetics?”

“Our findings that these centenarians share such positive personality traits suggest that they may be associated with longevity,” he added.

The main message of the study is that [although] these centenarians have a ‘nice’ personality now, that was not always the case,” opening the door to the notion that it’s never too late to adopt a “can-do” spirit.

The majority of participants (the near-centenarians) were found to be relaxed, friendly, conscientious and upbeat about life. Importantly, said the authors, an easy laugh and an active social life were observed to be a group norm, while neuroticism was notably the exception. What’s more, feelings were more commonly shared as they arose, rather than stifled and squelched.

These findings also confirm past research results whereby personality traits typically found among the children of centenarians suggested that those who are high in neuroticism tend to dwell on things and internalize their stress rather than let it go.  This can lead to increased risk for cardiovascular disease. High extroversion, on the other hand, may lead to a better ability to establish social support networks, which is important for older people and to be cognitively engaged.”

Researchers in this area recommend that people manage their stress better by knowing what activities help relieve it. Like physical exercise, yoga, tai chi, laughing a lot, reading or art activities. And, of course, enough sleep. It is just a matter of setting aside the time and energy to do these things.

 (Source: Nir Barzilai, M.D., director, Institute for Aging Research, and chair, aging research, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City; Thomas Perls, M.D., director, New England Centenarian Study, Boston University Medical Center, Boston; May 21, 2012, Aging, online )

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