Nav: Home

Teen personality traits linked to risk of death from any cause 50 years later

November 20, 2018

Energy, calmness, empathy, maturity and intellectual curiosity may be protective, while impulsivity may harm the chances of longevity, the findings indicate.

Previous research suggests that personality traits in mid-life may predict the probability of dying earlier or later. But it's not clear if the potential seeds of this association might go back even further, as has already been suggested for IQ and family background.

To explore this further, the researchers drew on data compiled for the Project Talent Study, a nationally representative sample of 5 per cent (1226) of all US high (secondary) schools in 1960.

Some 377,016 pupils, mostly ranging in age from 13 (9th grade) to 18 (12th grade) completed a battery of psychological tests and questionnaires over two days at that time.

The information sought, included family background-parents' educational attainment and job titles, income, housing and property ownership-as well as 10 personality traits, measured by the Project Talent Personality Inventory (PTPI), and considered important for lifetime success.

These were calmness; social sensitivity (empathy and sensitivity to other people's feelings); impulsivity; leadership (responsibility and self-determination); vigour (energetic disposition); self-confidence; tidiness (preference for organisation and order); sociability (outgoing disposition); culture (intellectual curiosity); and mature personality (goal-oriented).

These traits have subsequently been mapped to the current 'Big 5' dimensions used to describe personality: agreeableness; extraversion; conscientiousness; openness; and neuroticism.

The final analysis included 26,845 participants from 1171 of the original schools for whom there were complete data and whose records were tracked through the National Death Index up to 2009.

During the monitoring period, which averaged nearly 48 years, just over 13 per cent of the participants died.

The analysis revealed that a higher score for energy, empathy, calmness, tidiness, intellectual curiosity and maturity, and a lower score for impulsivity, as a teen were associated with a lower relative risk of death from any cause over the subsequent half century.

Factoring in ethnicity and family background did little to alter the observed associations between personality traits and survival.

And when all potentially influential factors were accounted for, the analysis showed that every 1-point change (from the expected average) in personality trait score was associated with increases or decreases of 5 to 7 per cent in the relative risk of death over the average 48-year monitoring period.

This is an observational study, and as such, can't establish cause, added to which not all the sample was randomly selected nor were ethnicity data available for all the participants. And the researchers didn't look at specific causes of death.

Nevertheless, the findings are based on large numbers, nearly half a century of monitoring, and an extensive personality trait inventory, say the researchers.

"In one sense, the tracing of personality-mortality associations back to adolescence is surprising because the high school years are widely seen as a time of personality development and malleability," they comment.

And they acknowledge: "Personality change over the life course is a complex issue, with considerable individual variability."

But they suggest that the possible ways in which personality may be linked longevity include the adoption of unhealthy behaviours and the long term physiological impact of psychological factors on the body's immune, hormonal, and cardiovascular systems.

"Maladaptive traits also appear to limit later educational attainment, impede mid-life occupational advancement and increase risk of divorce-social and socioeconomic factors linked to later death," they point out.
-end-


BMJ

Related Empathy Articles:

Learning empathy as a care giver takes more than experience
Research among nursing students shows that past experience living in poverty or volunteering in impoverished communities, does not sufficiently build empathy towards patients who experience poverty.
Study finds empathy can be detected in people whose brains are at rest
UCLA researchers have found that it is possible to assess a person's ability to feel empathy by studying their brain activity while they are resting rather than while they are engaged in specific tasks.
Siblings of children with intellectual disabilities score high on empathy and closeness
A new Tel Aviv University and University of Haifa study finds that relationships between children and their siblings with intellectual disabilities are more positive than those between typically developing siblings.
Empathy for perpetrators helps explain victim blaming in sexual harassment
Men's empathy for other men who sexually harass women may help explain why they are more likely to blame victims, new research suggests.
Researchers suggest empathy be a factor in medical school admissions
The national norms can help to distinguish between two applicants with similar academic qualifications, and identify students who might need additional educational remedies to bolster their level of empathy.
Diabetes patients experiencing empathy from PCPs have lower risk of mortality
A United Kingdom study designed to examine the association between primary care practitioner empathy and incidence of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality among type 2 diabetes patients found that those patients experiencing greater empathy in the year following their diagnosis saw beneficial long-term clinical outcomes.
Insects need empathy
In February, environmentalists in Germany collected 1.75 million signatures for a 'save the bees law.' Citizens can stop insect declines by halting habitat loss and fragmentation, producing food without pesticides and limiting climate change, say the authors of this Perspectives piece in Science.
Antidepressants can reduce the empathic empathy
Depression is a disorder that often comes along with strong impairments of social functioning.
Autism linked to less empathy in general population -- but that may not be a bad thing
The psychologists behind the research hope their insights can help the autistic community and those around them in adapting support available.
The power of empathy in product development
'Subtle things, such as imagining how someone else would feel, can have a huge impact on creativity in general,' says UConn's Kelly Herd.
More Empathy News and Empathy Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.