Conscientious People Live Longer

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- A study released Wednesday by UC Riverside researchers revealed that conscientious people -- those who are organized, reliable and competent -- tend to live longer.

"The major finding is that this conscientiousness aspect of personality is indeed reliably predictive of mortality risk across studies," said UCR psychology professor Howard S. Friedman, who led the study. "This seems to be as important as most commonly assessed medical risk factors, few of which are psychological."

The study, which analyzed data from 20 similar studies, appears in the latest issue of the American Psychological Association's journal, Health Psychology. All together, the study looked at 8,900 people from the United States, Canada, Germany, Norway, Japan and Sweden.

Conscientious people tend to have better health habits and take less risks, but "they also travel life pathways toward healthier psychosocial environments -- such as more stable jobs and marriages -- and may even have a biological predisposition toward good health," Friedman said.

Friedman and graduate student Margaret Kern, who assisted him in the research, found that highly conscientious people live an average of two to four years longer than others, are less likely to smoke or drink excessively and live more stable, less stressful lives.

Of three aspects of conscientiousness -- responsibility, order and achievement -- achievement was the quality most closely associated with longevity.

"We think our findings can challenge people to think about their lives and what may result from the actions they do," Kern said.

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