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Lecture 19

PSY230H5 Lecture 19: Personality and Longevity-final

Course Code
Ulrich Schimmack

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Personality and Longevity
oLife expectancy vary across different countries
oHowever, there is increase in life expectancy over the history
oThe average life expectancy in some African countries is only 40.
oThe average life expectancy for Canadians is 78.69 years for men and 83.91
Studying Longevity: An illustration with Healthy Life Styles
oStudying longevity is both simple and difficult.
oSimple only need to measure some variables that may predict longevity
and then record when people are dying.
oDifficult you have to wait a long time to measure the predictor variables
before a sufficient number of people have died
Peeters et al. (2003) study on longevity:
He examined the effects of healthy life styles on longevity in a longitudinal study that
was started in 1948:
3457 Framingham Heart Study participants who were 30 to 49 years of age in
o- Gender
o - Smoking
o- Body-Mass-Index (kg / m2) 18.5-24.9 as normal, a BMI of 25-29.9 as
overweight, BMI > 30 as obese.[Example: BMI = 76 / 1.762 = 24.5]
o- Mortality
The Figure shows the proportion of individuals who were still alive (y-axis) as a
function of years after the beginning of the study.

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Results :
o10 years after the beginning of the study, all groups are the samemost
individuals are still alive
oAfter 40 years marked differences .
o Normal weight non- smoking males and females have about a 75-80%
probability to be alive at age 80.
o In contrast, smoking obese males' probability is just above 20%.
oThus, a healthy life style is a strong predictor of longevity.
oBMI has a high stability and many obese children will be obese during
oConclusively that smoking and obesity is one of the causal factors
Conscientiousness and Longevity

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Does personality traits predict longevity.
Lewis Terman initiated a longitudinal study of gifted children in the 1920s(high
iqs (> 135).
The participants in this study called themselves the “termites.”
Howard S. Friedman published numerous articles on predictors of longevity
based on this study.
The Terman Study
In 1921-22, Lewis Terman recruited over 1500 children (age 11) for a
longitudinal study (IQ > 135).
Parents rated children’s personality.
In 1940 (age 30) self-reports of personality.
These responses were coded in terms of the Big Five dimensions.
In 1991, a ‘Termite’ would have been 80 years old.
- leading causes of death were cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
- 58% were actually alive, 42% had died.
- High conscientiousness (top 25%): 63% alive
- Low conscientiousness (lowest 25%): 53% alive
One of the predictor wad conscientiousness as measured by parents’ ratings
and self rating
In the whole sample, the chance of being alive at age 80 was 58%.
The probability for the high conscientious group was 63
The probability for the low conscientious group was 53% ( 10% difference)
So does conscientious predict longevity :
We can rule out that longevity caused conscientiousness (cannot go backwards in
However correlation does not mean causality
Its more likely that conscientiousness influences longevity indirectly
Conscientiousness influences the way people behave and these behaviors may be
the more direct causes of longevity.
Conclusion :
Conscientiousness predicts a longer life.
The causal mechanisms that produce this relationship have not been found
It is likely that good health habits partially contribute to this relationship.
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