The study, published in International Psycho Geriatrics focused on people older than 90 years old in southern rural Italy, where it’s not uncommon for people to live to see 100 and beyond. Researchers at the University of Rome La Sapienza and University of California San Diego School of Medicine studied 29 people in their 90s and 100s and 51 of these elderly folks’ family members, and their findings on their psychological traits were fascinating. As one might expect, the younger family members in the study (aged 51 to 75) were in better physical health than their elders. But the older people in this group had better mental well-being than their younger counterparts.
“There have been a number of studies on very old adults, but they have mostly focused on genetics rather than their mental health or personalities,” said Dilip V. Jeste MD, who was the senior author of the study. “The main themes that emerged from our study, and appear to be the unique features associated with better mental health of this rural population, were positivity, work ethic, stubbornness, and a strong bond with family, religion, and land.”
She added, “We also found that this group tended to be domineering, stubborn, and needed a sense of control, which can be a desirable trait as they are true to their convictions and care less about what others think. This tendency to control the environment suggests notable grit that is balanced by a need to adapt to changing circumstances.”