What is the secret of longevity? Researchers analyzed the lifestyle of the inhabitants of southern Italy who live over 90 years.

According to their findings, stubbornness and optimism are among the character traits that can represent the secret of longevity. The study published Tuesday in the International Psychogeriatrics journal.

The team was looking for clues regarding longevity. They have focused their research on the nine-seared remote area of ​​the Cilento region in southern Italy. There, hundreds of people are over 90 years old. The study focused on 29 of participants that aged between 90 and 101 years. Although the physical health of these elderly people was worse compared to younger members of their families, they showed a better mental state, according to research.

Additional research has been done on older adults, but they have focused on genetics rather than on their mental health or personality traits. The main themes that emerged from the study seem to be unique traits associated with a better physical health of this rural population: optimism, work ethics, stubbornness and a strong link with family, religion, and their land. The love of people in this group towards their land is a common theme and it gives them a purpose in life. Most of them still work in households and land areas.

“Living to this age is a test of your sustainability…They feel that whatever they have done for the last 90 years, if they have been successful, why should they now change their attitude or lifestyle to meet somebody else’s needs?” said Dr. Dilip V. Jeste, study co-author and director of the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging.

Scientists also found that these elderly people had significantly better attributes in self-confidence and decision-making compared to their 50, 60 and 70-year-olds. This paradox of aging supports the idea that well-being and (wisdom) increase as we age, even if physical health deteriorates.

Researchers intend to continue to monitor people participating in this study with the hope of better understanding of health and functional capacities in all age groups.

images source: University of Rome La Spienza, these are real participants in the study

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