Friends may predict your lifespan

New Delhi: A new study shows that your personality in your 20s can predict your lifespan. In addition, your close friends can probably recognise the relevant personality traits better than you can. “You expect your friends to be inclined to see you in a positive manner, but they also are keen observers of the personality traits that could send you to an early grave,” says Joshua Jackson, assistant professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis.

Male participants seen by their friends as more open and conscientious ended up living longer. Female participants whose friends rated them as high on emotional stability and agreeableness also enjoyed longer lifespans, the study finds.

“Our study shows that people are able to observe and rate a friend’s personality accurately enough to predict early mortality decades down the road,” Jackson says. It’s no secret that a person’s personality traits can have an impact on health. Men who are conscientious are more likely to eat right, stick with an exercise routine, and avoid risks, such as driving without a seat belt. Women who are emotionally stable may be better at fighting off anger, anxiety, and depression, Jackson suggests.

While other studies have shown that a person’s view of his or her own personality can be helpful in gauging mortality risk, there has been little research on whether a close friend’s personality assessment might also predict the odds of a long life.

To explore this question, Jackson and colleagues analysed data from a longitudinal study that in the 1930s began following a group of young people in their mid-20s, most of whom were engaged to be married. The longitudinal study included extensive data on participant personality traits, both self-reported and as reported by close friends, including bridesmaids and groomsmen in the study participants’ wedding parties.

Using information from previous follow-up studies and searches of death certificates, Jackson and colleagues were able to document dates of death for all but a few study participants. Peer ratings of personality were stronger predictors of mortality risk than were self-ratings of personality.