Tidy and quiet teens live the longest, scientists say

The study started in 1960 and followed the teen participants for 48 years - Cultura RF
The study started in 1960 and followed the teen participants for 48 years - Cultura RF

Quiet and tidy teenagers are more likely to live to old age, the results of a 48-year study suggest.

A vast data analysis found strong links between these old-fashioned virtues, as well as calmness and empathy, and a reduced risk of early death.

Conversely, the research, published Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found that impulsive teenagers were less likely to make it into their late 60s.

Researchers believe the links may be explained by the fact that people who are quiet and tidy as teenagers are more likely to lead healthier lives and, crucially, are less likely to get divorced.

Previous studies have shown that divorce is a major risk factor for early death because divorcees tend to take less good care of themselves and, without a partner to prompt them, are less likely to visit the doctor.

Scientists at the University of Rochester, New York drew on data from the Project Talent Study, a sample of 1,226 American secondary schools, beginning in 1960.

Some 377,016 pupils, mostly ranging in age from 13 to 18, completed a series of psychological tests and questionnaires over two days in that year.

“In one sense, the tracing of personality-mortality associations back to adolescence is surprising because the high school years are widely seen as a time of personality development and malleability,” the authors said.

The acknowledge, however: “Maladaptive traits also appear to limit later educational attainment, impede mid-life occupational advancement and increase risk of divorce–social and socioeconomic factors linked to later death.”

The study argues that, as well as being more likely to adopt a healthy lifestyle, people who are quiet and thoughtful as teenagers may be intrinsically healthier because these psychological factors have a beneficial impact on the body’s immune, hormonal and cardiovascular systems.