Self-control in childhood is the path to healthy aging in middle age

Researchers from New Zealand have found that the ability to control one' s own emotions, exercise willpower and self-discipline not only helps a child succeed in school, but also helps them avoid age-related diseases longer into middle age and old age.

The multidisciplinary study measured the physical and cognitive well-being of 1,000 people from birth through the average age of 45. In addition, all participants were routinely subjected to a number of psychological assessments of impulsivity, aggressiveness, and self-control.

Across all parameters, higher self-control skills in childhood were found to correlate with slower aging in adulthood. Participants with this skill showed not only outwardly younger features, but were also more energetic and healthier than their peers at age 45.

It also turned out that the highest self-regulation skills in childhood were demonstrated by participants from prosperous and wealthy families. However, as the researchers point out, this is not a verdict. Participants who learned self-control later in life and into adulthood had significantly better health outcomes than those who didn't.

Interviews found that the ability to control their emotions and behaviors also made people more prepared to deal with social, medical and financial issues later in life. Such participants showed more optimism about issues related to aging and showed greater satisfaction with life in adulthood compared to other subjects.

"Everyone has fears of a painful, poor and lonely old age, so healthy aging requires us to be physically, financially and socially prepared," says Terry Moffitt, professor of psychology and neurobiology at Duke Nunnerl O. Keohane University.

Self-control can be taught. Researchers suggest that investing in such training can increase longevity and improve the quality of life, not only in childhood but also later in life.

Jan. 11, 2021, 12:24 p.m.

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