Here’s why conscientious people live longer

Try to do what is right... Being more conscientious will improve your marriage and your work

If you Google what you should be doing to live to a ripe old age, you’ll find a whole raft of good advice. Like taking more exercise, eating less fat, giving up smoking, drinking less, reducing your weight and managing stress.

All worth following, but we all know smokers who lived into their nineties, and runners who didn’t.

Your family history doesn’t help you much either. You might expect that if your parents lived to be ninety, then so will you. But once you’ve become an adult, you can’t depend on your parents’ genes to look after you. It’s true that some families are very long lived, but that’s more about shared lifestyles than shared genes.

Statistically, it helps to be female, because women generally live longer than men. But even that is mostly due to behavior, because men tend to take more risks, especially with their health, like how they drive more aggressively and so on.

It also helps to have a sense of humour, be well educated, keep mentally sharp and do voluntary work. Having good relationships also helps, as does working with animals. And not driving to work!

And being optimistic. Optimists tend to think that always, life’s going to get better, which usually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Optimists are also more outgoing and take better care of themselves. But optimism has its drawbacks, such as the tendency to overlook possible hiccups. For instance, when did you last backup your laptop? Even optimism can set you up for problems.

It all sounds impossibly complicated. But there is one thing that reliably predicts your life expectancy. It’s how conscientious you are. How much you try to do what’s right, and to do it well.

Mostly, that’s all about the way being conscientious leads you to make good choices. For instance, you’ll be more likely to live a healthy lifestyle, eat the right food, and fasten your seat belt.

You’ll also be less likely to get a whole variety of diseases, and not just those caused by bad habits. No one really knows why, but it’s probably something to do with neurotransmitter levels.

Being more conscientious will also improve your marriage and your work.

Work’s important because even a hard and stressful job increases your lifespan, providing the work’s challenging, involves responsibility, and working with other people. But don’t stay in a job you can’t stand. That kind of stress can have really bad long term consequences.

Happily married couples also live longer, though curiously it’s his happiness that forecasts how long they’ll both live. Her happiness doesn’t seem to matter at all! Now, why doesn’t that surprise you, I wonder? Their happiness also affects their offspring, because children whose parents divorced during their childhood tend to have shorter lives than those whose parents stayed together.

So if you want to live to be 90, you should work on becoming more conscientious. Because you really can think yourself into a longer and happier life.