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The key to a long life: conscientious habits



   I just found the following article on the internet.  I thought it 
   was quite interesting.  I note that I did find an error in the 
   article and corrected it and rewrote the section on scoring.  I 
   tried the test on myself and scored a 46.


   The Key to a Long Life: Conscientious Habits 

   By Philip Moeller 
   Fri Apr 8, 2011 

   Long before the age of gene therapy and miracle medical 
   treatments, the secrets of long life were being gathered and 
   revealed in a unique study of 1,500 children born about 1910. 
   By studying these people throughout their lives, successive 
   generations of researchers collected nearly 10 million pieces 
   of observable data and have been able to produce solid insights 
   into human longevity. 

   "Most people who live to an old age do so not because they have 
   beaten cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease; 
   rather, the long-lived have mostly avoided serious ailments 
   altogether," according to Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. 
   Martin, in their recent book, "The Longevity Project." 

   "The best childhood personality predictor of longevity was 
   conscientiousness--the qualities of a prudent, persistent, well 
   organized person," according to the two professors (he at the 
   University of California--Riverside, and she at La Sierra 
   University). "Conscientiousness . . . also turned out to be the 
   best personality predictor of long life when measured in 
   adulthood." 

   Their book chronicles research begun in 1921 by Lewis Terman, a 
   Stanford University psychologist who selected 1,500 bright and 
   generally high performing children and began amassing detailed 
   information about their personal histories, health, activities, 
   beliefs, attitudes, families, and other variables. 

   Over the next eight decades, other academics maintained the 
   Terman Project and assembled exhaustive details on all facets 
   of the original subjects' later lives. It is this unique depth 
   of detail that has permitted Friedman and Martin to reach what 
   they feel are scientifically sound conclusions about what it 
   takes to live a long life. 

   "It was not cheerfulness and it was not having a sociable 
   personality that predicted long life across the many ensuing 
   decades," they wrote. "Certain other factors were also 
   relevant, but the prudent, dependable children lived the 
   longest. The strength of this finding was unexpected, but it 
   proved to be a very important and enduring one." 

   The book presents three reasons why conscientious people live 
   longer: 

   1. They are more likely to obey the rules, protecting their 
   health, and not engaging in risky behaviors such as smoking or 
   driving without a seat belt. If a doctor tells them to take a 
   medicine, they take every prescribed dose. 

   2. "Conscientious individuals are less prone to a whole host of 
   diseases, not just those caused by dangerous habits," they 
   found. "It appears likely that conscientious and 
   unconscientious people have different levels of certain 
   chemicals in their brains." 

   3. "The most intriguing reason conscientious people live longer 
   is that having a conscientious personality leads you into 
   healthier situations and relationships," the research 
   concluded. "They find their way to happier marriages, better 
   friendships, and healthier work situations." 

   Many of the subjects of the Terman Project faced difficult 
   challenges in their adult lives, including bitter combat in 
   World War II, divorces, stressful jobs, and career reversals. 
   Conscientious people had the ability to weather these problems. 
   They displayed "self healing" personalities that helped them 
   find their ways back to healthy lifestyle paths. People without 
   such behavioral traits and healthy coping skills didn't fare as 
   well and were often unable to bounce back. 

   Other strong longevity traits, Friedman and Martin say, include 
   strong connections with other people and groups, either through 
   marriage or outside activities. Also, "those with the most 
   career success were the least likely to die young. In fact, on 
   average the most successful men lived five years longer than 
   the least successful." While happiness was not a cause of 
   longer life, "the sense of being satisfied with one's life and 
   achievement was very relevant to resilience." 

   Here are ten questions used to determine how conscientious you are.

    1.  I am always prepared. 
    2.  I leave my belongings around.
    3.  I enjoy planning my work in detail. 
    4.  I make a mess of things. 
    5.  I get chores done right away.
    6.  I often forget to put things back in their proper place. 
    7.  I like order. 
    8.  I shirk my duties. 
    9.  I follow a schedule. 
   10.  I am persistent in the accomplishment of my work and ends. 

   The possible responses to each question are:

   1 -- Very inaccurate. 
   2 -- Moderately inaccurate. 
   3 -- Neither accurate nor inaccurate. 
   4 -- Moderately accurate. 
   5 -- Very accurate. 

   Scoring proceeds as follows:

   First, on questions 2, 4, 6, and 8 reverse the scores, 
   changing 1 to 5, 2 to 4, 3 to 3, 4 to 2, and 5 to 1.  Now add 
   up the scores for the ten questions.

   Total scores can range from a low of 10 to a high of 50. "This 
   score is a good measure of conscientiousness," the book says. 
   "Total scores between 10 and 24 indicate very low 
   conscientiousness . . . Scores between 37 and 50 suggest 
   exceptionally high conscientiousness." 

   To test the accuracy of your own answers, ask your spouse or 
   close friend to tell you what answers they think apply for you. 
   They know you very well and might have a more objective view of 
   your personality traits than you do. 

   Now, the good and bad news about how conscientious you are is 
   that you can change your personality, but you can't invent a 
   new one overnight. The highly conscientious people in the 
   Terman study had little clue that such behavior would be 
   associated with living a very long life. They behaved this way 
   in their everyday lives because it came naturally. 

   "It doesn't matter how many New Year's resolutions you make," 
   the book said. "In fact, rapid and pervasive changes are 
   usually quickly abandoned by anyone undertaking them. Lasting 
   adjustments happen with smaller, but progressive, steps." 

   Medical treatment is conspicuously absent from the book's 
   longevity findings. "So-called modern medical cures have played 
   a relatively minor role in increasing adult life span," the 
   authors wrote. "Social relations should be the first place to 
   look for improving health and longevity."


   Apr 2011


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