The conversations of life

Could being neurotic help you to live longer? Yes – if you think you’re unhealthy

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Given that psychological stress and depression have long been linked to health problems, you would think neurotic people would be at a similar risk. But a new UK study has found worrying about your health could have unexpected benefits for your longevity.

How? The researchers looked at the lifestyle habits, self-rated health, chronic conditions, and mortality risk of 500,000 people, aged 37 to 73, over six years. They also did a personality assessment to determine how neurotic they were.

Neurotic people generally experience more negative emotions, such as irritability, frustration, nervousness, worry and guilt.

The team discovered that neurotic people who said their health was fair or poor lived longer and had less health problems than those who rated their health as good or excellent.

More doctors’ visits linked to earlier diagnoses

Why? The researchers says that being anxious about your health could lead a person to visit their doctor more regularly than the average person, and that might lead to an earlier diagnosis of serious illnesses like cancer.

Non-neurotic people were also less likely to seek treatment for their symptoms.

Interestingly though, being neurotic didn’t stop people from taking up unhealthy habits, such as smoking, excessive drinking, being sedentary or following a poor diet.

“We had thought that greater worry or vulnerability might lead people to behave in a healthier way and hence lower their risk of death, but that was not the case,” lead researcher Professor Catharine Gale said.

So if you’re agonising over that niggling pain, it could be worth making that appointment – just don’t complain if the doctor tells you to lay off the booze.

Lauren Broomham

Lauren is a journalist for villages.com.au, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.


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