Five life skills for health and wealth

The five life skills which bring health, wealth and success throughout life have been pinpointed by scientists.

Emotional stability, determination, control, optimism and conscientiousness are the foundation stones of building a fruitful and happy life, found experts at University College London.

People in their fifties and sixties who scored highly in at least four of the five attributes were generally wealthier, less depressed, healthy and had a large number of friends.

In contrast, those who achieved two or fewer of the skills were often lonely, broke, depressed and were far more likely to suffer from chronic diseases, even when they came from a wealthy background or had a private education.

“It is well recognised that some highly intelligent people or those who come from privileged backgrounds may not succeed because they lack character strengths, whereas less well-endowed individuals, who are reliable and self-disciplined, do attain their goals,” said Professor Andrew Steptoe of the department of Epidemiology and Public Health, who co-led the research.

“No single attribute was more important than others. Rather, the effects depended on the accumulation of life skills.”

To find out the impact of key life skills, the team from UCL looked at data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing which has followed more than 8000 middle-aged Britons for the past 11 years.

They discovered that just three per cent of people who scored highly for all five positive attributes had symptoms of severe depression compared with 22 per cent of people who had a low number of life skills.

Highly skilled people also had lower levels of cholesterol and of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation relevant to a number of different diseases including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

They also had smaller waistlines and walked more quickly, which often predicts a longer life. They also rated their health higher than those with fewer life skills.

Co-author Professor Jane Wardle, of UCL, concluded: “Life skills such as persistence, conscientiousness, and control are important in early life.

“Our results suggest that fostering and maintaining these skills in adult life may be relevant to health and wellbeing at older ages.

“This work opens up possibilities for exploring ways in which a range of life skills might be enhanced in people at older ages, for the possible improvement of health, wellbeing, and social function in the later stages of life.”

The research was published in the journal PNAS. – The Daily Telegraph

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