Being positive and sharing a strong bond to family and the land may be the secret to a longer life, according to new research.
Researchers at the University of Rome La Sapienza and University of California San Diego have identified common psychological traits in citizens aged 90 and over after studying a group of residents in a remote Italian village famous for longevity.
The study, published in International Psychogeriatrics, surprisingly found participants who were over 90 had worse physical health but better mental well-being than their younger family members aged 51 to 75, according to a report by the University of San Diego.
“There have been a number of studies on very old adults, but they have mostly focused on genetics rather than their mental health or personalities,” Dilip V. Jeste, the senior author of the study, said.
“The main themes that emerged from our study, and appear to be the unique features associated with better mental health of this rural population, were positivity, work ethic, stubbornness and a strong bond with family, religion and land.”
The 29 participants aged between 90 and 101 were from nine villages in the Cilento region of southern Italy, a region that has several hundred people aged over 90. They spoke about being active, managing stress and always being ready for change.
“I am always thinking for the best,” one of the residents explained. “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,” another said. “I do not know what stress is. Life is what it is and must be faced … always.”
The participants also spoke of their love of their land, which gave them a purpose in life.
“Most of them are still working in their homes and on the land. They think, ‘This is my life and I’m not going to give it up’,” Anna Scelzo, another author of the study, said,
“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,” she added.