No matter where you live or how old you are, you're probably interested in living longer. If you're reading this, chances are you're in an ever-increasing quest to live better, eat better and generally take better care of yourself. But how might someone's mental outlook influence their longevity? According to new research1 published in International Psychogeriatrics, living longer is not necessarily just a matter of chance. Approaching life with purpose and optimism has been shown to make a significant difference in a life well lived.
It takes intestinal fortitude to live in a world where it feels, in many respects, that to do what's best for you, you have to row against the tide. While many simply go with the flow, it takes courage and, yes, possibly a stubborn streak, to hold out for excellence and perseverance; to live life with purpose and not just what floats your boat at the moment.
Researchers from Sapienza University in Rome and the University of California San Diego collaborated to study people living in nine remote villages in Southern Italy who lived, in some cases, well past the age of 90 and even to 101.
Their health was compared with that of family members whose ages ranged from 51 to 75 years. One fascinating thing the scientists found was that, although some of the younger people may have been in better physical shape, the oldsters enjoyed better mental health. One may wonder how the researchers went about assessing the outcomes of the data they gathered. Newsweek noted:
"Data was gathered using both measurable assessments for mental and physical health, including factors like optimism and depression, in addition to interviews that gathered personal stories about traumatic life events and beliefs. The team also analyzed the younger participants on the same rating scales but also asked them to describe their older relatives' personalities."2
How Being Stubborn Can 'Ground' You
Characteristics like having a positive attitude contributed to a more upbeat mindset for the older people involved in the study, the assessments determined. Newsweek quoted study co-author Dilip Jeste, from the University of San Diego School of Medicine and director of its Center for Healthy Aging, who explained:
"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."
The researchers believe the "Old World" mentality maintained by many of the older participants, evidenced by a tendency toward a domineering, stubborn, "in control" approach to life, helped those older individuals establish a grounded frame of mind; fear of judgment from others wasn't part of their mentality. Boxing legend Jake LaMotta, the "Raging Bull," who died on September 19, 2017, at the age of 95, had one such outlook on life.