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Optimism, Laughter May Bring Long Life
Date:5/30/2012

d the team to make personality comparisons among genetically similar individuals.

The result: The majority of near-centenarians were found to be relaxed, friendly, conscientious and upbeat about life. Importantly, said the authors, an easy laugh and an active social life were observed to be a group norm, while neuroticism was notably the exception. What's more, feelings were more commonly shared as they arose, rather than stifled and squelched.

Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University Medical Center, said the findings confirm several observations he and his colleagues have made in the past.

For example, Perls' own team's look at personality traits typically found among the children of centenarians suggested that "those who are high in neuroticism tend to dwell on things and internalize their stress rather than let it go," he noted. "This can translate into increased risk for cardiovascular disease. High extroversion may lead to a better ability to establish social support networks -- which is very good for older people -- and to be cognitively engaged."

"[So] these studies show people that they should do what they can to manage their stress better so that it doesn't manage them," Perls added. "People usually know what activities help them relieve stress. Like physical exercise, yoga, tai chi, laughing a lot, reading or art activities. And, of course, enough sleep. It is just a matter of setting aside the time and energy to do these things."

More information

For more on longevity, go to the Kronos Longevity Research Institute.

SOURCES: Nir Barzilai, M.D., director, Institute for Aging Research, and chair, aging research, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City; Thomas Perls, M.D., director, New England Centenarian Study, Boston University Medical Center, Boston; May 21, 2012
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