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Optimism & Stubbornness Linked With Long Life

S u m m a r y :
Optimism and stubbornness may be linked with long life, suggests a new study published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics.

Live Well, Live Long

None of us can escape ageing—but this does not stop us from trying to, at least, delay it or diminish its effects. Scientists are, thus, bent on unlocking the secrets associated with it to prolong life. A new study, a coordinated effort by researchers from the University of Rome La Sapienza, and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, attempts to identify the traits of people having reached over 90 years of age.

The team focused their analysis on remote villages of Italy where reside hundreds of such elderly individuals (90- to 101-year-olds); their mission was to outline the psychological attributes shared by the members of this group.

Better Mental Health Than Younger People

The most interesting finding is that the participants display better mental well-being in spite of having the worse physical health than their younger relatives from the 51 to 75 age group. According to senior author Dilip V. Jeste, the unique characteristics linked with this superior mental health include “positivity, work ethic, stubbornness, and a strong bond with family, religion, and land.”

“I Love My Land”

Explaining how the latter trait plays into the mental health of the elderly participants, first author Anna Scelzo says that the love they have for their land gives them a sense of purpose in life; it is to be noted that the majority of them are still working in both their homes and land. Scelzo describes this mentality of theirs as boiling down to: “this is my life and I’m not going to give it up.”

More Self-Confidence

On top of having had their mental and physical health evaluated by the investigators, the participants were also interviewed with the purpose of collecting personal narratives on topics like migration, beliefs, and traumatic events. Their responses show laudable qualities like self-confidence and decision-making skills. Jeste comments that this finding supports the age-old concept that ageing comes with greater well-being and wisdom despite a worsened physical condition.

Motivational Personal Accounts

The study authors have gathered direct quotes from the participants, some of which are:

“I lost my beloved wife only a month ago and I am very sad for this. We were married for 70 years. I was close to her during all of her illness and I have felt very empty after her loss. But thanks to my sons, I am now recovering and feeling much better. I have four children, ten grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. I have fought all my life and I am always ready for changes. I think changes bring life and give chances to grow.”

“I am always thinking for the best. There is always a solution in life. This is what my father has taught me: to always face difficulties and hope for the best.”

“I am always active. I do not know what stress is. Life is what it is and must be faced … always.”

“If I have to say, I feel younger now than when I was young.”

Controlling & Stubborn

“We also found that this group tended to be domineering, stubborn and needed a sense of control, which can be a desirable trait as they are true to their convictions and care less about what others think,” says Scelzo. “This tendency to control the environment suggests notable grit that is balanced by a need to adapt to changing circumstances.”

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