The secret to living to 100: Three traits centenarians have in common – do you have them?

Centenarian reveals SURPRISE drink that helps her live longer

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The backdrop to longer life expectancies is improved living standards across the board. This had led to lower mortality rates in the very old. However, why some people reach the age of 100 remains genuinely mysterious.

Research into this exclusive age group has revealed some enlightening traits, however.

Researchers pored over the literature on the subject in the Journal of Aging & Social Policy.

Maintaining a satisfying life – even when health limitations occur – appears to be a factor.

“The contributions of the aforementioned studies offer new insights into the nature of successful ageing at this very advanced age,” the researchers in the review wrote.

They observed that centenarians commonly report being satisfied with their lives.

They also have levels of well-being comparable to middle-aged adults and that centenarians highly value their lives.

“In addition, levels of depression are low and only few experience anxiety issues,” the researchers observed.

The link between positivity and life expectancy has been identified in several studies.

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Researchers have found that individuals with greater optimism are more likely to live longer and to achieve “exceptional longevity”, that is, living to age 85 or older.

This is the key finding of a study conducted by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Optimism refers to a general expectation that good things will happen, or believing that the future will be favourable because we can control important outcomes.

Whereas research has identified many risk factors that increase the likelihood of diseases and premature death, much less is known about positive psychosocial factors that can promote healthy ageing.

The study was based on 69,744 women and 1,429 men. Both groups completed survey measures to assess their level of optimism, as well as their overall health and health habits such as diet, smoking and alcohol use.

Women were followed for 10 years, while the men were followed for 30 years. When individuals were compared based on their initial levels of optimism, the researchers found that the most optimistic men and women demonstrated, on average, an 11 to 15 percent longer lifespan, and had 50-70 percent greater odds of reaching 85 years old compared to the least optimistic groups.

The results were maintained after accounting for age, demographic factors such as educational attainment, chronic diseases, depression and also health behaviours, such as alcohol use, exercise, diet and primary care visits.

“While research has identified many risk factors for diseases and premature death, we know relatively less about positive psychosocial factors that can promote healthy ageing,” explained corresponding author Lewina Lee, PhD, clinical research psychologist at the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston and assistant professor of psychiatry at BUSM.

“This study has strong public health relevance because it suggests that optimism is one such psychosocial asset that has the potential to extend the human lifespan. Interestingly, optimism may be modifiable using relatively simple techniques or therapies.”

It is unclear how exactly optimism helps people attain longer life.

“Other research suggests that more optimistic people may be able to regulate emotions and behaviour as well as bounce back from stressors and difficulties more effectively,” said senior author Laura Kubzansky, PhD, MPH, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences and co-director, Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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