Jerks Die Sooner, Suffer More Heart Attacks
March 13, 2014

Pol Pot, leader of the genocidal Khmer Rouge and prominent jerk, died of a heart attack.

Scientists have long sought to understand the link between personality and longevity. These studies are difficult to conduct, but thus far, evidence suggests that being conscientious, expressing emotions, extraversion, and feeling in control are all associated with longer lifespans. In 1993, 14,445 people aged 39 – 54 were categorized by personality and tracked over 12 years. Some died, and some did not, and it turns out that personality was a statistically significant predictor of who died.  Specifically, those with “neurotic hostility” were most likely to die in the time period:

“Results. In models adjusted for age, sex, marital status and education, all-cause and cause-specific mortality were predicted by ‘total hostility’, its ‘neurotic hostility’ component as well as by ‘CHD-prone’, ‘ambivalent’ ‘antisocial’, and ‘healthy’ personality types. After mutually adjusting personality traits for each other, only high ‘neurotic hostility’ remained a robust predictor of excess mortality from all causes [RII = 2.62; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.68–4.09] and external causes (RII = 3.24; 95% CI = 1.03–10.18). ‘CHD-prone’ (RII = 2.23; 95% CI = 0.72–6.95) and ‘anti-social’ (RII = 2.13; 95% CI 0.61–6.58) personality types were associated with cardiovascular mortality and with mortality from external causes, respectively, but CIs were wider. Adjustment for potential behavioural mediators had only a modest effect on these associations.”


Can You Choose Your Personality?

Behavioral changes can influence personality. Exercise is known to improve mood, while meditation may improve one’s sense of empathy. Improved empathic skills will change behavior towards others. By exercising and meditating, we can reign in angry moods and be more thoughtful towards others.