World's oldest person turns 117 in Italy

Italy's Emma Morano, the world's oldest living person, marked her 117th birthday on Tuesday, blowing out all the candles on her cake.
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Italy's Emma Morano, the world's oldest living person, marked her 117th birthday on Tuesday, blowing out all the candles on her cake.
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Being stubborn might just be the key to a longer life, study finds

By Josh Magness

jmagness@mcclatchy.com

December 13, 2017 09:30 AM

Stubborn people might have another reason to be headstrong — it could keep them alive longer.

That’s according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal International Psychogeriatrics, which found that traits like stubbornness, optimism, a love for family and country and a willingness to work hard are common among some Italians aged 90 to 101.

Researchers from both the University of Rome La Sapienza and University of California San Diego School of Medicine studied 29 of those older Italians — and 51 of their family members aged 50 to 75 — who live in remote villages straddled by the Mediterranean Sea on one side and mountains on the other.

It was discovered that, while having worse physical health, the Italians nearing a century of living had improved mental well-being when compared to their younger family members, according to the study. The study attributed that to the strong-willed nature of those nonagenarians, who spoke to researchers about their beliefs, history of migration, family and country.

Some in the study spoke to researchers about how their family keeps them going.

“I lost my beloved wife only a month ago and I am very sad for this. We were married for 70 years,” one of the people aged 90 to 101 said, according to the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. “I was close to her during all of her illness and I have felt very empty after her loss.

“But thanks to my sons, I am now recovering and feeling much better,” they added. “I have four children, 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. I have fought all my life and I am always ready for changes. I think changes bring life and give chances to grow.”

Others attributed their longevity to a positive outlook on life.

“I am always thinking for the best,” another participant in the older group said. “There is always a solution in life. This is what my father has taught me: to always face difficulties and hope for the best.”

That steely resolve and self-confidence in the face of obstacles could be the reason why those older Italians have managed to live such long lives, said study author Anna Scelzo, according to the University of California San Diego.

“The group’s love of their land is a common theme and gives them a purpose in life. Most of them are still working in their homes and on the land,” Scelzo said. “They think, ‘This is my life and I’m not going to give it up.’”

“We also found that this group tended to be domineering, stubborn and needed a sense of control,” she added, “which can be a desirable trait as they are true to their convictions and care less about what others think.”

Of course, this is just the latest study to offer some promising trick to a longer life.

A study from Spanish researchers found that drinking more coffee could keep you alive. Another study published in Scientific Reports last month suggested owning a pup is the key to longevity. A third said the way to delay death is as simple as push-ups and sit-ups.

But don’t take that final finding too literally, as a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings earlier this year said that too much exercise can actually lead to an earlier death.

Still, if you’re as stubborn as researchers found some of those aging Italians to be, these studies probably don’t change your mind about anything.

And that could be exactly what you need to keep on living well into your 90s.