Published on November 26, 2018

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illustration by PHUONG NGUYEN

If you take pride in having firmly held beliefs, good news: according to a study published in the journal of the International Psychogeriatric Association, you may have a chance of living longer than your weaker-willed peers.

Studying rural, southern Italy-dwelling participants, researchers from the University of Rome La Sapienza and University of California San Diego School of Medicine tried to hone in on the commonalities of people with longer lifespans. Sure, a home on the Italian seaside surely can’t hurt when it comes to living your best life, but researchers discovered there are other differences that set nonagenarians and centenarians apart—and they all have to do with mental health.

Researchers asked participants about their life experiences and interviewed family members about their relatives’ personalities to construct narratives that dove into the ups, downs, and general attitudes of their subjects. They also created a scale to measure not just physical and mental health, but also resilience, optimism, anxiety, depression, and perceived stress.

The results? Although participants had worse physical health than younger family members (to be expected), they measured higher in mental health. Amid their personalities, strong themes also emerged, including, positivity, hard work, familial bond, and a need for control, which can be summarized in the study’s conclusion: “Exceptional longevity was characterized by a balance between acceptance of and grit to overcome adversities along with a positive attitude and close ties to family, religion, and land, providing purpose in life.” In other words, those who are strong-willed, positive, and family-oriented tend to have better mental health and longer lives.

It just goes to show that digging your heels into the ground might just help your health in the long-run—when it’s paired alongside a good dose of optimism, of course.

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