Self-Controlled Children Tend to be Healthy Middle-Aged Adults

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A study in New Zealand has tracked a thousand people from their birth through age 45, and were surprised to find out that people with higher self-control as children were aging slowly than their peers at the age of 45. Also, their bodies and brains proved to be healthier and younger.

In the interview, the group with higher self-control ability proved to be better supplied to handle health, financial and social challenges in terms of later life as well. Participants with high childhood self-control showed more positive views towards aging and felt more satisfied with their middle-age life.

Kids with greater self-control appeared to come from families who were more financially stable and had a higher IQ. The results of slower aging with more self-control at age 45 can, however, be distinguished from their socio-economic status and IQ in childhood. Their studies found that the aspect that made a difference was self-control. And puberty is not fate, the researchers are able to point out. Some participants in the study had shifted their levels of self-control as adults and had stronger health results than their childhood tests would have expected.

Self-control can also be taught, and researchers believe that engaging in such training in society could enhance the longevity and quality of life, not only in adolescence, but maybe also in the middle of life. There is ample evidence that modifying mid-life habits (quitting smoking or exercising) leads to better performance. 

“Everyone fears an old age that’s sickly, poor, and lonely, so aging well requires us to get prepared, physically, financially, and socially,” said Terrie Moffitt, the Nannerl O. Keohane Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke, and last author on the paper. “We found people who have used self-control since childhood are far more prepared for aging than their same-age peers.” The study appears the week of Jan. 4 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Teachers, caregivers and the children themselves were tested for childhood self-control at ages 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11. Children were tested for impulsive aggression and other types of impulsivity, over-activity, perseverance, and inattention. Participants were also measured in multiple organ systems, including the brain, from ages 26 to 45, for physiological signs of aging. Higher childhood self-control was associated with slower aging in all measures. The persons with the highest self-control were found to walk quicker and also have younger-looking faces at age 45.


Categories: Clinical, Mental Health