Temperament Correlate to Physical health and Longevity?
This research project explores if an individual's temperament is correlated with longevity or physical health. Temperament, "…refers to those aspects of an individual's personality…" (Kagan, 2005). The traits of temperament are considered more innate, and less learned. If a specific temperament could be labeled as associated with increased physical health or longevity, perhaps researchers could aid individuals who become ill earlier. This research could provide important research for the medical community.
Some major reasons this study is important:
Provide insight into relationship of emotions and the physical effects they can have on an individual.
Learn more about life longevity and ways to increase it for patients.
Learn more about temperament
Potentially find evidence of an internal chemical association with temperament.
Emotions can affect overall well-being and health. This has been studied for some time. An individual who is depressed may over-eat or under-eat, depending upon the individual. Rarely are there no physical issues connected with a change in emotion. According to SelfGrowth.com, "We can see the effects of "negative" emotions on our bodies in countless ways: damaged immunity, impeded digestion, increased risk of heart disease, sleep disturbances, high blood pressure, water retention, anxiety, depression, reduced sexual function, lowered pain thresholds, etc. Emotions can also assist in holding onto pain and existing disease processes and can impede a successful wellness plan" (Welp, 2010). By gaining more insight into how emotions affect one physically, and if that affects their longevity, could be a useful tool in the medical industry.
Longevity has been studied almost since medicine began. Explorers began searching for a "Fountain of youth" long ago in order to maintain youth and longevity. "Reflections on longevity have usually gone beyond acknowledging the brevity of human life and have included thinking about methods to extend life. Longevity has been a topic not only for the scientific community but also for writers of travel, science fiction, and utopian novels" (Agency, 2010). Life expectancy can be used interchangeably with longevity. It would be interesting to learn that a specific set of traits could keep an individual alive longer, and it is definitely not impossible.
Learning more about temperament could prove an important asset. Although temperament or personality has been studied for many years, it is still lacking a sufficient classification system. A common classification scale for children and temperament is based on 9 different types. This scale is called Nine Temperament Characteristics of Thomas and Chess (1996). A more classic scale used is called Rudolf Steiner's four temperaments. Because there are so many scales for measuring temperament, a standard scale or form of measurement is needed. In learning more about temperament, researchers should be able to better classify different types.
Finding evidence of an internal chemical association with temperament would be an amazing discovery. Many feelings humans experience can be linked to specific chemicals and receptors in the body. If each feeling is linked to a chemical (or mixture of chemicals) released in the body, perhaps individuals who release more of a certain chemical are likely to live longer and/or healthier. By tracking specific chemicals in an individual's system, perhaps we can find more out about why people are they way they are. If individuals could be better understood based on temperament types, preventative health for specific issues or illnesses could be of great value.
III. Literature Review
"Longevity may be related to a variety of factors including heredity, gender, socioeconomic status, nutrition, social support, medical care, and personality and behavioral characteristics" (Robine, 1997). Several articles state almost the same statement. It is widely accepted that longevity maybe linked with personality and behavioral characteristics. Is this because certain personality types tend towards specific behaviors or patterns, or is it deeper than that? According to an article from the Netherlands, "There is a growing interest in the studies of human longevity and in the search of mechanisms, which determine the length of human life. Traditionally these studies have been focused on adult and older ages, usually overlooking or even neglecting the possible role of early-life developmental processes in longevity determination. Recently, however, the situation has dramatically changed, because a new theory of longevity and aging has been suggested, which explicitly predicts the importance of early-life events in lifespan modulation" (Gavrilov, 2003). This study will focus on the more traditional, older age groups.
In a 1996 study, "Six aspects of personality were examined for a sample of 211 individuals across either a 30- or 40-year time span. Latent curve analyses found an underlying pattern of lifetime change for self-confidence, cognitive commitment, outgoingness, and dependability. An underlying pattern of lifetime stability was found for assertiveness" (Jones CJ, 1996). However, as far as results go, "No shared systematic underlying pattern could be fit to individuals' lifetime trajectories for warmth. Although individuals shared a single underlying pattern of change or stability for 5 of the 6 dimensions of personality considered here, they also showed differences in the degree and direction of personality change" (Jones CJ, 1996). Not many solid results have been found in this area.
In 2002 an interesting article concerning successful aging was published. The study was established as follows: "…two cohorts of adolescent boys (237 college students and 332 core-city youth) for 60 years or until death. Complete physical examinations were obtained every 5 years and psychosocial data every 2 years. Predictor variables assessed before age 50 included six variables reflecting uncontrollable factors: parental social class, family cohesion, major depression, ancestral longevity, childhood temperament, and physical health at age 50 and seven variables reflecting (at least some) personal control: alcohol abuse, smoking, marital stability, exercise, body mass index, coping mechanisms, and education" (Vaillant GE, 2001). The results stated that, "One may have greater personal control over one's biopsychosocial health after retirement than previously recognized." This finding is important because it demonstrates that some factors of longevity maybe within one's control.
Based on the above referenced literature, nothing solid seems to have been found which correlates temperament to physical health and lifespan. A variety of factors are expected, with some research stressing everything from heredity to behavior. One of the most important points that can be taken from previous research is stated by Vaillant. Knowing that some factors can directly affect longevity can lead to further findings.
IV. Research methodology
Individuals with a hardy personality and a more positive temperament will have a longer longevity and increased physical health.
Researchers will use only one group of test subjects for this study. The group they will be compared to will be the deceased at the same ages. Each participant will only need to do two surveys one time.
To gain a sample of participants beginning at age 80, local senior centers will be visited to find willing seniors. There is no age cap because researchers will want to test as high of an age as possible. No patients who are bed-ridden will be interviewed. The sample will consist of 250 physically health seniors. Participants will be compensated for travel and time.
As mentioned previously, two different surveys will be utilized to quantify information in this study. The first form measuring health is in progress of being designed. It will measure for the four classical temperament types. Although some forms have been created specifically for this, a new, more comprehensive test will be used. The other survey we will use is the SF-36 (Short Form 36). This survey consists of 36 questions trigged at determining an individual's state of well-being. In this way will temperament and health be measured.
Once surveys are collected from all participants, each will be scored based on their responses. Each answer will be assigned a numerical value. In this way can researchers quantify the results found. Data will be graphed and any correlations noted. Researchers will be looking for any relationship between temperament and physical health or longevity.
The expected time frame for receiving all surveys back and graphing results is six months.
Funds will be needed to compensate participants, physicians, data analysts, and disposables. A total of one-million dollars will be needed to fund this research proposal.
The findings from this study will be published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Agency, T.U. (2010). CIA World Factbook. Retrieved February 10, 2011, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html