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15.05.2013


Feeling of being in control lengthens life

Are we to some extent in charge of what our life looks like? Or is life determined for us, do we have no control over our own destiny? Researchers at the German Institute for Economic Research can't answer this question, but they do know that people who believe their fate lies in their own hands live longer than people who don't. They write about it in Psychology and Aging.

Adherents of positive psychology believe that your expectations and ideas determine how old you are likely to become and how long you can remain healthy. Research backs up this viewpoint too. Studies show, for example, that the absence of fear of aging extends life expectation. Other studies show that a positive view of life after retirement has the same effect.

Another important psychological factor that contributes to life expectancy is social contact. The more social contacts people have, the longer they live. The relationship is so strong that some studies have shown that from writers' language use you can read off what age they are likely to reach. The more often they refer to people in their immediate surroundings, the older they live to be.

And then there's 'life satisfaction', as psychologists call it. If you're satisfied with what life has brought you, you'll live longer. The relationship is particularly strong in men, and is seen above all in the life expectancy of physically fit people.

But there are also studies that say that perceived control is the result of having many social contacts, and that perceived control is the result of enjoying life. So which way does it cut? Is perceived control itself relevant or not? That's what the researchers at the German Institute for Economic Research wanted to know, so they delved into data on forty thousand Germans that had been monitored since 1984.

There was indeed a relationship between social contacts and perceived control, and there was a relationship between life satisfaction and perceived control too.


Feeling of being in control lengthens life


The researchers discovered that perceived control is indeed a factor. Over a period of 14 years, the chance of a disabling event or of dying was lower among people with a high level of perceived control.


Feeling of being in control lengthens life


Feeling of being in control lengthens life


After compensating for the effects of social contacts, life satisfaction, income and other factors, the relationship between perceived control and disability disappeared. But the relationship between perceived control and mortality remained.

The German research results are of course good news for the growing longevity movement. The mere fact that you believe that your lifestyle partly determines the age you'll live to be extends your life expectancy.

Source:
Psychol Aging. 2011 Sep;26(3):559-75.

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Your word use reveals the age you are likely to reach 11.05.2013
Positive view of life after retirement extends life expectancy 24.04.2013
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