As for the exact relationship between personality and longevity, "we are relying on scientific literature to understand exactly what it means," Perls said. For instance, he said, it makes sense that scoring lower in neuroticism -- and handling stress well -- would contribute to a longer life, because stress has been shown in scientific studies to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Other research has found social ties to be important to an older person's health.
"We really found that the offspring of centenarians, in their 70s and early 80s, are very much following in the footsteps of their parents," Perls said. "They have 60 percent reduced rates of heart disease, stroke and diabetes."
The latest study findings do not surprise Colin Milner, chief executive of the International Council on Active Aging, based in Vancouver, Canada. "It's probably been said before in different ways," he said of the study's findings on the longevity benefits of managing stress and forming friendships.
"We are talking about the positive aspects of life," Milner said. He said that his grandmother, who is 98, has the traits Perls found that are associated with longevity. When she became a widow, Milner said, she stayed positive and remained open to new experiences -- which for her included becoming a hockey fan -- and making new friends.
When he gives lectures to people at retirement communities on active aging, "you walk in and see who is engaged in life," he said. "If you are engaged, you are less negative, more open, and more agreeable. That's why you are engaged."
And, he said, "people will engage with you" if you have those traits.
But what to do if you aren't naturally outgoing and aren't good at handling stress?
Remember, Perls said, that you can get better at each. People can make a point of trying to be more outgoin
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