Conscientiousness is the secret to a long life

Do the senior partners of accountancy practices really live longer than the rest of us? Evidence suggests that organised achievers live longest.

Business leaders who build successful companies, Olympic athletes and even some US presidents are all likely to live longer than the average person – because they are more conscientious.

Two scientists at the University of California at Riverside, performed what is known as a meta-analysis of twenty previously published studies, which altogether rated 8900 people for aspects of conscientiousness using a standard psychological assessment tool and also recorded the age at which each person died.

Applying rigourous statistical tests, Howard Friedman and Margaret Kern found that people who were less conscientious were 50 per cent more likely to die at any given age, on average, than those of the same age who scored highly.

This is a far greater impact than that due to socioeconomic status and intelligence, which are both also known to increase longevity.

The characteristics of conscientiousness that were most strongly correlated with longevity were those associated with achievement (persistent, industrious) and order (organized, disciplined).

Their findings are published in full in the journal Health Psychology (Ref DOI: 10.1037/0278-6133.27.5.505).

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