Chapter 2 describes conscientiousness as a critical predictor for longevity. This was a foreseeable finding in my mind, and I’m sure many others were also unsurprised by it. I already anticipated that conscientious individuals would have higher organizational skills, lower risk-taking behavior, and more dependable relationships. All of this was supported by the authors’ findings, and makes complete sense. What I didn’t anticipate was the link between conscientiousness and increased physical health. They discovered that individuals who scored low on conscientiousness had more serious and chronic health problems, such as diabetes, sciatica, and strokes. Comparatively, individuals with high conscientiousness appear to be predisposed to being healthier, which the authors attribute to higher serotonin levels. The fact that personality traits–even from childhood–can literally be used to predict the length of a person’s life and their overall susceptibility to disease (in a general sense) is shocking to me.
Chapter 3 examined the perplexing relationship between sociability and longevity. The authors initially say that they found no correlation between sociability and life expectancy, which is contrary to what social norms would predict. They cite Dr. Terman’s study, which found that scientists (high conscientiousness, low sociability) reliably lived longer than non-scientists (high sociability). However, this ended up being a result of lifestyle differences rather than sociability scores. For example, very sociable individuals were much more likely than less sociable individuals to frequently drink and smoke. Thus, sociability as a characteristic may not predict longevity, but it does correlate with poorer health choices–and those certainly can predict longevity. On the other hand, social ties are important for well-being so it would make sense that being more social would enhance one’s well-being. They found that this wasn’t necessarily the case, though, and they came to the conclusion that sociability is not as straightforward a variable as anyone would expect.