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Personality Predictors of Longevity: Activity, Emotional Stability, and Conscientiousness

Terracciano, Antonio PhD; Löckenhoff, Corinna E. PhD; Zonderman, Alan B. PhD; Ferrucci, Luigi MD, PhD; Costa, Paul T. Jr PhD

doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31817b9371
Original Articles

Objective: To examine the association between personality traits and longevity.

Methods: Using the Guilford-Zimmerman Temperament Survey, personality traits were assessed in 2359 participants (38% women; age = 17 to 98 years, mean = 50 years) from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, starting in 1958. Over the duration of the study, 943 (40%) participants died, on average 18 years after their personality assessment. The association of each trait with longevity was examined by Cox regression controlling for demographic variables.

Results: In preliminary analyses among the deceased, those who scored 1 standard deviation (SD) above the mean on General Activity (a facet of Extraversion), Emotional Stability (low Neuroticism), or Conscientiousness lived on average 2 to 3 years longer than those scoring 1 SD below the mean. Survival analyses on the full sample confirmed the association of General Activity, Emotional Stability, and Conscientiousness with lower risk of death, such that every 1-SD increase was related to about 13%, 15%, and 27% risk reduction, respectively. The association of personality traits with longevity was largely independent from the influence of smoking and obesity. Personality predictors of longevity did not differ by sex, except for Ascendance (a facet of Extraversion). Emotional Stability was a significant predictor when the analyses were limited to deaths due to cardiovascular disease, with comparable effect sizes for General Activity and Conscientiousness.

Conclusions: In a large sample of generally healthy individuals followed for almost five decades, longevity was associated with being conscientious, emotionally stable, and active.

BLSA = Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging; SD = standard deviation; FFM = Five-Factor Model; GZTS = Guilford-Zimmerman Temperament Survey; BMI = body mass index; HR = hazard ratio; CI = confidence interval.

From the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Baltimore, Maryland.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Antonio Terracciano, Laboratory of Personality and Cognition, National Institute on Aging, NIH, DHHS, 251 Bayview Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21224. E-mail:

Disclosure: Dr. Costas receives royalties from the Revised NEO Personality Inventory.

Received for publication September 27, 2007; revision received January 10, 2008.

This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging.

Copyright © 2008 by American Psychosomatic Society
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