Most of the time, people are advised to eat a healthy diet, avoid stressful situations, get enough exercise, and avoid smoking and drinking to live longer and more fruitful lives. But new research suggests that those might not be the only things we can do to extend our life expectancy.
The new study published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics took a look at a group of 29 people from Cilento, Italy aged 90- to 101-years-old and their younger relatives. While they were found to be in worse physical health than family members aged 51 to 75, the older participants appeared to be in better mental health. According to the Daily Mail, the researchers discovered that those in the older age group had better self-confidence and decision-making abilities and had a “greater sense of well-being” than the generation ahead of them.
In a statement, study lead author Anna Scelzo said that there were certain traits that might have been instrumental in helping the older generation live longer lives.
“The group’s love of their land is a common theme and gives them a purpose in life. Most of them are still working in their homes and on the land. They think, ‘This is my life and I’m not going to give it up.”
Scelzo added that the older group was more stubborn and domineering than the younger group analyzed in the study, with their desire for a sense of control helping them pay less attention to what others think and remain true to their principles in life.
“This tendency to control the environment suggests notable grit that is balanced by a need to adapt to changing circumstances,” she added.
In order to gather data for their study, the researchers interviewed the participants and assessed their mental and physical health through a series of questionnaires and interviews, which included questions on traumatic events, their beliefs, and how they feel about migration. As further noted by the Independent, both sets of participants were asked similar questions for the sake of comparison.
According to the Daily Mail, one of the people who took part in the study was a “long-living” man whose wife of 70 years had recently passed away. The man was quoted as saying that he was able to recover from his loss thanks to the help and support of his sons and that he is “always ready for changes.”
Likewise, other subjects said that they were able to live longer because they continue to live active lifestyles, avoid situations that can be considered stressful, and believe that there are solutions to every problem that may come up in their lives.
Offering his own comments on his team’s study, University of California-San Diego professor of psychiatry Dilip Jeste said that previous studies had mostly focused on genetics, as opposed to how a person’s mental health or personality could possibly help them live longer.
“The main themes that emerged from our study, and appear to be the unique features associated with better mental health of this rural population, were positivity, work ethic, stubbornness and a strong bond with family, religion and land.”
Despite how the new study offered proof that being positive, tenacious, and family-oriented could help people live longer, that doesn’t mean other tools, such as eating a healthy diet, should be ignored. The Daily Mail wrote that an earlier study looked at residents of the Italian town of Acciaroli, where many elderly people credited their long lives to eating a fish, fruit, and vegetable-heavy Mediterranean diet, while also enjoying an active sex life despite their advanced age.