Washington: Want to know how long you’ll live? Ask your closest friends! Best friends are the most accurate judges of when a person might die and which personality traits will send them to an early grave, a new research suggests.
“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,” said Joshua Jackson, assistant professor of psychology in Arts and Sciences from Washington University in St Louis. The study demonstrates that your personality at an early age (20s) can predict how long you will live across 75 years and that close friends are usually better than you at recognising these traits.
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 found. “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 said. “It suggests that people are able to see important characteristics related to health even when their friends were, for the most part, healthy and many years from death,” said Jackson.
It’s no secret that a person’s personality traits can have an impact on health. Traits such as depression and anger have been linked to an increased risk of various diseases and health concerns, including an early death, researchers said. 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.
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. “There are two potential reasons for the superiority of peer ratings over self ratings,” Jackson said. “First, friends may see something that you miss; they may have some insight that you do not. Second, because people have multiple friends, we are able to average the idiosyncrasies of any one friend to obtain a more reliable assessment of personality,” Jackson added.