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Psychosom Med. 2012 Jan;74(1):16-22. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3182385784. Epub 2011 Dec 7.

Genetic influences on life span and its relationship to personality: a 16-year follow-up study of a sample of aging twins.

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GeneticEpidemiology Unit, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, 300 Herston Rd, Herston, Brisbane, Queensland 4006, Australia.



The relationship between personality and life span is not well understood, and no study to date has examined genetic influences underlying this relationship. The present study aimed to explore the phenotypic and genetic relationship between personality and life span, as well as genetic influences on all-cause mortality.


Prospective community-based study including 3752 twin individuals older than 50 years. Neuroticism, psychoticism, extraversion, and social desirability and pessimism/optimism were measured at baseline using the Revised Eysenck Personality Questionnaire and the Revised Life Orientation Test, respectively. Information on age at death was obtained 16 years after the initial assessment of personality.


Extraversion was inversely related to mortality with the risk of death decreasing 3% per unit increase of the extraversion score. Psychoticism and pessimism were positively related to mortality with a 36% and 39% increase in risk of death per unit increase in the respective personality score. Heritability of life span was 7%. Cross-twin cross-trait hazard ratios (HRs) were only significant for optimism/pessimism in monozygotic (MZ) twins with no significant differences in HRs between MZ and dizygotic twins in all traits; however, there was a trend for slightly higher HRs in MZ compared with dizygotic twins in psychoticism and optimism/pessimism.


Extraversion, psychoticism, and optimism/pessimism are significant predictors of longevity; extraversion is associated with a reduction, and pessimism and psychoticism are associated with an increase in mortality risk. Genetic influences on longevity in Australian twins are very low (7%). Our data also suggest a small, albeit nonsignificant, genetic influence on the relationship of pessimism and psychoticism with life span.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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