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Change in neuroticism tied to mortality rates, researcher says

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- While mellowing with age has often been thought to have positive effects, a Purdue University researcher has shown that doing so could also help you live longer.

Dan Mroczek (pronounced Mro-ZAK), an associate professor of child development and family studies at Purdue University, compared neurotic and non-neurotic men over time and tied change in the trait with mortality.

"We found that neurotic men whose levels dropped over time had a better chance at living longer," Mroczek said. "They seemed to recover from any damage high levels of the trait may have caused. On the flip side, neurotic men whose neuroticism increased over time died much sooner than their peers."

A neurotic personality was defined as a person with the tendency to worry, feel excessive amounts of anxiety or depression and to react to stressful life events more negatively than people with low levels of the trait. Neuroticism levels were measured using a standardized personality test.

Results of the study will be published in the print edition of the journal Psychological Science in late May. The study is available online at http://www.psychologicalscience.org.

In the study, researchers tracked the change in neuroticism levels of 1,663 aging men over a 12-year period. Using the data gathered in the first analysis, researchers calculated the men's mortality risk over an 18-year period using the average levels and rates of change.

By the end of the study, half of those men classified as highly neurotic with increasing levels of neuroticism had died while those whose levels decreased or were classified as less neurotic had between a 75 percent and 85 percent survival rate.

Even small increases in neuroticism were shown to have negative effects. Participants with as little as a one-unit increase in neuroticism over the course of the study were shown to have a
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Contact: Tanya Brown
tanyabrown@purdue.edu
765-494-2079
Purdue University
16-Apr-2007


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