Little miss conscientious will live the longest of all

Our personalities influence our health more than imagined and being carefree and easy- going may not be as great as you think…


YOU COULD be the butt of jokes among friends for being a hardworking, laborious fool in an age when smart work pays more than hard work. But the reality is that health wise you are better off than your peers.
A new study says that those who take their work seriously and work harder tend to live longer.
The finding comes from the latest book The Longevity Project by psychology professors Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin at the University of California. Quoting a study done on school kids for 80 years, the book says that the kids who worried about their exams and projects and studied hard, lived longer than the extraordinarily bright and cheerful kids. This debunks the old theory that happy and carefree people live the longest. Rather, it's persistence and a cautious attitude that add years to life.
"Having a conscientious personality leads people to adopting healthier habits," says Dr Vishal Chhabra, consultant psychiatrist, VIMHANS. The worrying nature of such people makes them take things on a serious note and pay attention to details. "This increases their ability to plan ahead, control their impulses and take long term decisions. Because they are mostly concerned about their future, they rarely get into unhealthy habits such as substance abuse. They also follow doctor’s advice strictly," adds Dr Chhabra.
This is quite unlike the optimists who tend to ignore details, take doctor's advice lightly and may easily acquire unhealthy habits or addictions.

STUDIES have time and again proven that our personality type and psychology determine our health in a big way and are indicative of the diseases we are prone to. Dr Nimisha Kumar, clinical psychologist and CBT specialist says a combination of genetic and environmental factors determines our health, and personality plays a vital role in this. "Our thinking pattern and feelings impact our behaviour, which reflects in our eating habits and personal healthcare ability," she says.
Dr Rachna K Singh, psychologist and lifestyle expert at Artemis Health Institute agrees: "Our personalities definitely contribute to our health and also determine the longevity and quality of our lives."

IF YOU are highly ambitious by nature and are mostly charged up, you may be at risk of developing cardiac problems. "We categorise such people under type A personality," says Dr Singh. "Such people are perfectionists who are restless to achieve more. They always have deadlines to meet and get more stressed than others. Too much stress affects the functioning of the heart, making them more likely to suffer from hypertension and cardiac diseases," adds Dr John Victor, clinical psychologist, VIMHANS.
Apart from heart diseases, persistent stress also raises the levels of the stress hormone — cortisol — in the blood. "This weakens the immune system, making an individual vulnerable to colds and flu," says Dr Victor.

THEN there are those happy-go-lucky guys who seem unaffected by odd situations. "You put them in the toughest circumstances, and they will remain cool," says Dr Kumar.
The good part is that such personalities don’t get worked up, and hence keep a host of stress related diseases at bay. However, on the other hand, their casual approach towards life may adversely affect their health, primarily in the form of obesity.
Researchers at Doshisha University in Japan observed the personalities of obese individuals who were undergoing a weight- loss programme.
They found that those who were optimistic didn’t succeed much in their weight loss mission. The reason is that being optimistic often makes people immune to oddities. "For the happy- go- lucky types, odd situations don’t make them volatile. They learn to cope with things and look at the brighter side. They don’t care much about their weight or appearance and give into temptations easily,” says Dr Victor.

ANOTHER type of personality includes the extroverts who are more vocal with their thoughts.
"They don’t take stress, but stress others instead. They often express themselves without thinking first. This attitude may harm their relations, although their physical health remains intact,” says Dr Singh. However, chances are that a highly social life may leave them with little time for themselves. A study conducted in the US suggests that social stimulation is responsible for tiring out the brain parts linked to alertness. Hence, excessive social interaction may result in poor alertness and may even lead to sleeplessness.

ON THE other hand, introverts or shy individuals are vulnerable to psychosomatic pain and heartburn. Such personalities also tend to have a host of gastronomical problems such as acid reflux, indigestion and stomach ulcers.
"Irritable bowel syndrome is one abdominal problem that is known to get aggravated due to suppressed emotions,” says Dr Victor. The reason is that such personalities avoid confrontations, hence think a lot before reacting to situations. "They are highly sensitive people, but their emotions mostly get repressed as they can’t express themselves openly. Hence, they internalise their problems, leading to gastritis problems," says Dr Singh.
To sum up, each personality has its own disadvantages but has its flip side too.
"For instance, although hyperactive personalities are at a higher risk of heart diseases, they also have the ability to fight against chronic diseases better," says Dr Singh. Similarly optimistic attitude helps individuals stay away from stress that can be detrimental to health. The key to good health lies in maintaining a balance in your personality and not live in extremes.
"For having balance in your personality, you need to look at things from a broader perspective and not just discard things as right or wrong," says Dr Kumar.


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