People with higher scores on life skills — such as emotional stability, determination, control, optimism and conscientiousness — are more likely to experience a broad range of health benefits and positive social outcomes in their old age, a study suggests.
The findings showed that people who have more life skills enjoy a range of benefits, including greater financial stability, less depression, low social isolation, better health and fewer chronic diseases.
“No single attribute was more important than others. Rather, the effects depended on the accumulation of life skills,” said Andrew Steptoe, Professor at the University College London.
In the study, published in the journal PNAS, the academics looked at the impact of these attributes in over 8,000 men and women aged 52 and older.
People with more life skills benefitted from favourable objective biomarkers in the blood, including lower levels of cholesterol and of C-reactive protein — a marker of inflammation relevant to a number of different diseases.
They had smaller waistlines, where fat accumulation is particularly relevant to metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, than people with a few life skills.
People with more skills also walked significantly faster than those with fewer — walking speed is an objective measure predicting future mortality in older population samples, the researchers said.
“We were surprised by the range of processes — economic, social, psychological, biological, and health and disability related — that seem to be related to these life skills. Our research suggests that fostering and maintaining these skills in adult life may be relevant to health and well-being at older ages,” Steptoe said.