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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Lifelong pathways to longevity: Personality, relationships, flourishing, and health

  • Author(s): Kern, ML
  • Della Porta, SS
  • Friedman, HS
  • et al.

© 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Building upon decades of research with the lifelong (nine-decade) Terman Life Cycle Study, we present a life pathway model for understanding human thriving that accounts for long-term individual difference in health and longevity, with a particular focus on child personality and adult social relationships. Developing data derived and supplemented from the Terman study (N=570 males, 451 females), we employed regression and survival analyses to test models of childhood personality predicting adult psychosocial factors (subjective well-being, family relationships, community involvement, subjective achievement, hardships) and subsequent longevity. Child personality differentially related to midlife social relationships, well-being, and hardships. Conscientiousness and good social relationships predicted longer life, whereas subjective well-being was unrelated to mortality risk. Examining multiple life factors across long time periods uncovers important pathways through which personality relates to premature mortality or longevity. Typical stress-and-illness models are untenable and should be replaced with life span trajectory approaches.

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