The secret to a longer life? Being conscientious.

I started  fascinating discussion in my members area this week about the virtue of selfishness. It whipped up some interesting responses that’s for sure. With that still fresh in my mind, while reading this weeks edition of the New Scientist, I stumbled across something that set more lights going off in my brain…

The notion of conscientiousness.

This morning, I looked the word up in my dictionary to make sure I knew the correct meaning and was not using some handed down version of an incorrect term…  Conscientious: Involving or taking great care; painstaking; diligent.

So that then, is the secret to a longer life. Let me explain…

This weeks New Scientist has a snippet of an article that states:  

EXECUTIVES who build successful companies, Olympic athletes and even some US presidents are all likely to live longer than the average Joe —because they are more conscientious.

The life-prolonging benefits of a scrupulous life have come to light from a comparison of 20 previous studies which together rated 8900 people for conscientiousness using a standard psychological survey, and also recorded the age they died.

Howard Friedman and Margaret Kern at the University of California at Riverside found that people who were less conscientious were 50 per cent more likely to die at any given age, on average, than those of the same age who scored highly (Health Psychology, ). This exceeds the effects of socioeconomic status and intelligence, which are also known to increase longevity.

Friedman and Kern then divided the most conscientious study subjects 2 into subgroups, and found that high achievers were most likely to live the longest. “These are individuals who are hard-working, resourceful, confident and ambitious,” says Kern. Second in line were orderly people. Finally, traits of responsibility and reliability were also significant. “These are people who are often seen as respectable members of the community, who contribute time and energy to society, cooperate with colleagues and neighbours, and are trustworthy,” says Kern.

Friedman say conscientious people do not live longer simply because they are boring or cautious, but admits they tend to “live lives that are more stable and less stressful”.

“One of the studies we included looked at American presidents,” says Kern. The first US president, George Washington, lived to be 67, double the life expectancy there at the time. “Washington was very conscientious, yet he certainly didn’t live a boring life.” For starters, he led his army to victory over Britain in the American revolutionary war.

Hmmm… I am certain that I am going to live to a ripe old age… 😉  Fascinating stuff…