According to a study from Yeshiva University of hundreds of very old Ashkenazi Jews (who make up 80% of Jews worldwide), the ones that are almost 100 years old have a positive outlook towards life and are emotionally expressive. Specifically, they are optimistic, easy-going, outgoing, they laugh a lot, express their emotions openly and avoid bottling them up, and are less neurotic and more conscientious than the general population.
Details of the Study
The scientists wanted to find genes which help people live longer, so they looked at Ashkenazi Jews from the university’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Longevity Genes Project. That group was an easy choice for a few reasons: they already had the people’s info, Yeshiva is a Jewish university and most importantly, due to centuries of Jewish mothers asking “is she Jewish?”, the Ashkenazi are among the most genetically similar of any group worldwide. As a result, it’s easy to spot traits in the population that arise from genetic differences and therefore lots of genetic studies have been done on them. The researchers were curious if any of the personality traits that very old people possessed were inherited, so they gave them personality quizzes and ranked them on a scale of positivity which ran along the lines of two accepted personality models: the Big Five and the Life Orientation Test. What they found was that the centerians were positive and emotionally expressive people.
As we’ve seen before, scientific studies should be taken with a grain of salt, and while the study is relatively large and the effects significant, the subjects were not diverse at all, the individual trait scores were self-reported via questionnaires, the researchers used their own scale, and confirmed their feel-good hypothesis that happy people live longer. Nevertheless, this is one more notch in the belt of a large body of research showing that positive people lead healthier lives.
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