Most crucial trait to help you live longer

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What you need to know:

  • Stay physically active and avoid junk food.
  • Your doctor will tell you not to smoke, and to exercise more.
  • Happily married couples also tend to live longer, and their happiness rubs off on their children

We all hope we will live to a ripe old age. But is there anything you can do to make that more likely?

Well, for a start, don’t assume that if your parents lived to be 95, so will you. Because you can’t depend on your genes to look after you. It’s true that some families are very long lived, but that’s more about their shared lifestyles than their shared genes.

It helps if you’re female, because women live longer than men. But even that has got a lot to do with lifestyles. Men are far more reckless, take many more risks with their health, drive faster, and so on.

So drive slower - or you might not even reach your 30s! Stay physically active and avoid junk food. Slobbing out and eating pizza all very well in your 20s, but you’ll pay for it later. Because the habits we learn when we’re young set us on our path through life.

Exercise more

Your doctor will tell you not to smoke, and to exercise more. Good advice, but we all know smokers who lived into their 80s, and runners who didn’t. It helps to develop your sense of humour, to do voluntarily work and never stop studying.

Good relationships also help, as does working with animals and being optimistic. Because being optimistic means you think life’s going to get better, and so you take better care of yourself.

But even optimism has its drawbacks. Such as overlooking possible problems and neglecting to prepare for them. So optimism can leave you vulnerable to setbacks.

Which all sounds like there’s nothing you can do that really works. But actually there is. Because the more conscientious you are, the longer you’re likely to live.

That’s partly because people who are conscientious make good choices, try hard to do what’s right, and to do it well, and are more likely to live healthy lifestyles and wear seat belts.

So they’re less prone to injuries and the diseases caused by bad habits. They’re also better at resisting the sort of impulsive behaviour that can lead you into dangerous situations.

Managing stress

They’re better at managing stress and more organised, which helps the brain withstand the effects of age. And so they’re also less prone to a whole host of diseases such as dementia.

Conscientious people are also more resilient, have happier marriages and enjoy their work.

Work’s important because even a hard and stressful job increases your lifespan, providing the work is challenging, involves responsibility and working with other people. But don’t stick at a job you can’t stand because that kind of stress is bad news.

Happily married couples also tend to live longer, and their happiness rubs off on their children. So children whose parents stuck together while they were growing up, live longer than those whose parents divorced.

So work on becoming more conscientious. Because it turns out you really can think yourself into a longer and happier life!


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