What’s the single most important personality trait if you want to live a long life?



Via The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study

Conscientiousness, which was the best predictor of longevity when measured in childhood, also turned out to be the best personality predictor of long life when measured in adulthood.


By the end of the twentieth century, 70 percent of the Terman men and 51 percent of the Terman women had died. It was the unconscientious among them who had been dying in especially large numbers.

Truly fascinating: after a heart attack conscientious people were not only more likely to recover because they were better about taking their meds but conscientiousness was a better predictor of improvement than the medication itself.

Conscientious people who took placebo did better than the less conscientious who got the real medication:

Most interesting to us, however, was that the conscientious patients (the good adherers) were much more likely to survive whether they were on the Propranolol medication or on the placebo. Being conscientious enough— adherent enough— to fully cooperate with treatment, even if with a placebo, emerged as a more important predictor of mortality risk than the medication itself.

Interesting side note: Conscientiousness is also the trait most associated with long, happy marriages.

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