How Worry and Anxiety Impact Longevity

Neurotic Tendencies May Shorten Lifespan

stressed businessman
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You already know worry and anxiety don't make you feel good, but did you know they stress can actually shorten your life? It turns out, having a neurotic personality can impact longevity, research finds. Here's what you should know.

How Worrying Affects Longevity

Every time you worry, feel anxious or overreact you could be shortening your life, according to a study by researchers at Purdue University.

They followed 1,600 men, aged 43 to 91, for 12 years to examine how men with neurotic personalities fared over time. The researchers used a personality test and defined a “neurotic personality” as someone who worries too much, feels anxiety or depression and reacts to stress negatively.

The researchers looked at how the neurotic personality changed over time. They compared men who were either highly neurotic or who increased in neuroticism over time to men who were mildly neurotic or decreased in neuroticism over time. At the end of the study, only 50 percent of the men with high or increasing neuroticism were alive compared to 75 percent to 85 percent of the other group.

Even a small increase in neuroticism over the course of the study led to a 40 percent increase in death compared to a stable person, even after controlling for age and a number of other conditions.

Why Does Neuroticism Impact Life Expectancy?

While researchers aren't sure why people with neurotic personalities may have lower life expectancies, there are a couple of theories for what's to blame.

The first is stress: Neurotic people are likely to have more stress hormones in their bodies, causing them to experience a number of complications. The other is that the lack of positive thinking may impact mortality.

How to Beat Stress and Live Longer

Regardless of why neurotic personality types may impact longevity, if you feel that are someone who worries frequently, you have anxiety or depression or you consistently react to stress negatively, there are steps you can take to increase your longevity.

A large sum of research has found that relaxation is good for your health. Learning stress reduction and relaxation techniques, such as breathing techniques, yoga or simple meditation may help.

More Stress Management Resources

For more information about stress management and relaxation techniques, check out these other great resources:

How Your Personality Affects Your Stress Levels

How To Deal With Stress and Anxiety in Four Simple Steps

Relaxation Tips for Stress Relief

Simple Steps to Calm Anxiety

Stress Management Techniques For All Types of Stress


Daniel K. Mroczek, Purdue University, and Avron Spiro III, Boston University. Personality Change Influences Mortality in Older Men. Psychological Science. Volume 19, Number 5 •May 2008.

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