Death is a scary topic, and conversations about quality and length of life pop up frequently. The number of tips and tricks seem endless – from the world’s oldest person, a 117-year-old Italian woman, who swears by eating raw eggs to a Japanese woman who claims that a diet made up of fish, rice, and simmered vegetables paves the path towards lessened mortality.
More recently, a study has shown that being stubborn can help us to live longer, more satisfying lives. The study observed people who had lived for at least a century and was published in International Psychogeriatrics.
The study showed that centenarians are generally optimistic, adaptable, and firm-minded people. The most traditionally stubborn subjects tended to stay closer to their familial and national ties, and were dedicated to both religion and work.
The researchers behind the study spent in-depth time with 29 elderly adults residing in an area of Italy with a renowned senior population. After analyzing their typical lifestyles and outlooks, they found that being strong-willed was one of the most common traits amongst those who had reached an old age. That being said, the personality types were almost always well balanced between stubbornness and optimism. It seems that growing old takes determination and a commitment to life.
Associate Dean, Dr. Dilip Jeste at the Center of Healthy Aging at UC San Diego, who was the author of the study, told Time magazine that the secret to living a long and fulfilling life lies in one’s outlook and headspace.
“These people have been through Depressions, they’ve been through migrations, they’ve lost loved ones,” he said. “In order to flourish, they have to be able to accept and recover from the things they can’t change, but also fight for the things they can.”
Despite various physical ailments and signs of outward aging, the study showed that the mental health of most of the subjects was still astute. The elderly subjects showed a high level of confidence, spent time with younger peers and family members, and constantly challenged themselves mentally through various activities and pastimes.
“Things like happiness and satisfaction with life went up, and levels of depression and stress went down,” Dr. Jeste said. “It’s the opposite of what we might expect when we think about aging, but it shows that getting older is not all gloom and doom.”
Although the study focused on a pretty specific and isolated group of people, it’s hard to reasonably cast doubt upon the importance of an active mind. Motivation, passion, and commitment to interpersonal relationships and achievement may very well be the secret behind ever-elusive youth.