Research Article: Positive attitude towards life and emotional expression as personality phenotypes for centenarians

Date Published: May 21, 2012

Publisher: Impact Journals LLC

Author(s): Kaori Kato, Richard Zweig, Nir Barzilai, Gil Atzmon.

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Abstract

Centenarians have been reported to share particular personality traits including low neuroticism and high extraversion and conscientiousness. Since these traits have moderate to high heritability and are associated with various health outcomes, personality appears linked to bio-genetic mechanisms which may contribute to exceptional longevity. Therefore, the present study sought to detect genetically-based personality phenotypes in a genetically homogeneous sample of centenarians through developing and examining psychometric properties of a brief measure of the personality of centenarians, the Personality Outlook Profile Scale (POPS). The results generated two personality characteristics/domains, Positive Attitude Towards Life (PATL: optimism, easygoing, laughter, and introversion/outgoing) and Emotional Expression (EE: expressing emotions openly and not bottling up emotions). These domains demonstrated acceptable concurrent validity with two established personality measures, the NEO-Five Factor Inventory and Life Orientation Test-Revised. Additionally, centenarians in both groups had lower neuroticism and higher conscientiousness than the US adult population. Findings suggest that the POPS is a psychometrically sound measure of personality in centenarians and capture personality aspects of extraversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness, as well as dispositional optimism which may contribute to successful aging.

Partial Text

Living to be 100 years of age is still a rare event. According to the US Census Bureau, there are approximately 53,000 centenarians in the US which remain only .2% of the population [1]. The number of centenarians has been rapidly increasing at a rate of 8% per year in the US [2]. Some suggest that centenarians may carry biological markers of successful aging since by and large they have delayed or escaped major illnesses [3]. However, less is known regarding factors which contribute to diversity in successful aging/longevity in centenarians [4].

The purpose of the present study was to detect genetically-based personality phenotypes through developing a brief measure of personality of centenarians, the Personality Outlook Profile Scale (POPS) and examining its construct, internal consistency (scale development study), and concurrent validity with the NEO-FFI and LOT-R (validation study) in a sample of Ashkenazi Jewish centenarians. The scale development study generated two domains: domain 1, Positive Attitude Towards Life (PATL: optimism, easygoing, laughter, and introversion/out-going); domain 2, Emotional Expression (EE: expressing emotions openly and not bottling up emotions). These domains evidenced adequate levels of internal consistency. Findings of the validation study demonstrated moderate to high associations between the POPS and select personality traits from the NEO-FFI and LOT-R. Specifically, PATL was highly associated with extraversion in both groups. PATL was also moderately associated with conscientiousness in the self-report group, and moderately to highly associated with dispositional optimism and neuroticism (negative correlation) in the informant-report group. EE was moderately and negatively associated with neuroticism in the self-report group and was moderately associated with extraversion in the informant-report group. There-fore, findings suggest that the POPS has acceptable psychometric characteristics and measures personality aspects of extraversion, neuroticism, and possibly conscientiousness, as well as dispositional optimism.

 

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