Data to Bolster the Usual Explanation as to Why Conscientious People Live Longer

In a better world, researchers who presently spend their time figuring out how and why personality traits correlate to life expectancy would instead be working on rejuvenation treatments. Alas, most of the study of aging is just that - study, with little to no interest in producing treatments. Here, scientists provide additional data to support the usual explanation as to why conscientious people live longer: they are taking better care of their health by refraining from smoking, engaging in regular exercise, not carrying excess fat tissue, and so forth. No doubt they are also making better use of available preventative and other medical services, but that isn't examined in this study.

Personality traits predict both health behaviors and mortality risk across the life course. However, there are few investigations that have examined these effects in a single study. Thus, there are limitations in assessing if health behaviors explain why personality predicts health and longevity. Utilizing 14-year mortality data from a national sample of over 6,000 adults from the Midlife in the United States Study, we tested whether alcohol use, smoking behavior, and waist circumference mediated the personality-mortality association.

After adjusting for demographic variables, higher levels of Conscientiousness predicted a 13% reduction in mortality risk over the follow-up. Structural equation models provided evidence that heavy drinking, smoking, and greater waist circumference significantly mediated the Conscientiousness-mortality association by 42%. The current study provided empirical support for the health-behavior model of personality - Conscientiousness influences the behaviors persons engage in and these behaviors affect the likelihood of poor health outcomes.



I know an eighty-year old who is healthy and looks it too. She goes to bed an hour after the sun sets, gets up with the dawn. After waking, she walks for 30 minutes. She eats when she is hungry and when she eats, she only has meat or fish and lots of greens as they come into season. Every 90 minutes during the day, she stops what she is doing to spend 15 minutes on her "exercise routine." Her 15 minute routine equates to a mile walk and she repeats it every 90 minutes throughout her day, every day except Sunday's.

During the non-Summer months, she sleeps longer than being awake. That's about nine months out of the year. During the Summer months the days are longer, so, she's awake longer than being asleep. She eats nutrient-dense food. She walks about eight miles a day, except on Sundays when she "just relaxes, reads and talks with the grand kids".

When asked about the criteria of health, she answers, "Sleep is first, eating is second and then mild exercise is third." When asked about her healthy longevity, she quips, "I am eighty-two. That means I've been asleep for 41 years. That means I've been living for 41 years and at only 41, I have a long way to go before I die."

When I think of health, I don't think of sleep as anything more than get some, and try for 8-hours per night. But in her life, she says that her primary criteria for her good health is sleep. A good night's sleep for her is governed not by an alarm clock but by the sun, when it comes up and when it goes down. How novel is that?

With that, I am looking to learn more about it. What is the body doing during sleep? Does light affect the body during sleep? Does darkness affect the body during sleep? Duration? How important is the number of hours we sleep? Have there been any serious studies conducted on sleep?

Posted by: FP at December 29th, 2013 4:26 PM

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