You may shudder to think what you were like as a teen, but if you had a tidy room and were mature for your years you might be thankful today, after a US study showed links between teenage personality traits and the risk of death 50 years later.
According to an observational study undertaken by the University of Rochester Medical Center, people who displayed personality traits such as empathy and intellectual curiosity had a lower risk of dying from any cause over the next 50 years compared to those who were impulsive.
The research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found protective traits like calmness and maturity led to longer lives, while impulsivity may harm the chances of longevity.
To figure this out researchers questioned some 377,016 American students ranging in age from 13 to 18 in 1960, using psychological tests and questionnaires. They compiled data on family background, as well as 10 personality traits including calmness, social sensitivity, impulsivity, leadership, vigour, self-confidence, tidiness, sociability, culture and mature personality and then tracked a portion of those students for almost 50 years.
Around 26,845 of participants were tracked through the National Death Index up to 2009, with just over 13 per cent of those people dying during the 48-year period.
The analysis of that data revealed that a higher score for energy, empathy, calmness, tidiness, intellectual curiosity and maturity, and a lower score for impulsivity, as a teen were associated with a lower relative risk of death from any cause over the subsequent half century.
It also showed that every one point of change (from the expected average) in personality trait score was associated with increases or decreases of 5 to 7 per cent in the relative risk of death over the average 48-year monitoring period.
According to researchers, personality and longevity could be linked through the adoption of unhealthy behaviours and the long-term phycological factors on the body’s immune, hormonal and cardiovascular systems.
“Maladaptive traits also appear to limit later educational attainment, impede mid-life occupational advancement and increase risk of divorce–social and socioeconomic factors linked to later death,” they claimed.
However, they do acknowledge that personality change over the life course is a complex issue, with considerable individual variability.
“In one sense, the tracing of personality-mortality associations back to adolescence is surprising because the high school years are widely seen as a time of personality development and malleability,” they said.