Study finds feeling in control may increase longevity

February 5, 2014 by Leah Burrows
Study finds feeling in control may increase longevity
Credit: iStockphoto

(Medical Xpress)—Do you believe in your own ability to succeed, or do you believe life events are largely beyond your control?

Think carefully about your answer—it could affect your risk of .

People who feel in control and believe they can achieve goals despite hardships are more likely to live longer and healthier lives, especially among those with less , according to a new study by Brandeis University and the University of Rochester. The study was published online in the journal of Health Psychology.

Previous studies have shown that people with a or less education tend to die younger than those with a college degree or graduate training. Yet, that's not a hard and fast rule. Why?

In this study, less educated people with higher perceived control in their life had a mortality rate three times lower than those with a lower sense of control. In fact, a high sense of control seemed to negate the mortality risks of lower education, says Margie Lachman, the Minnie and Harold Fierman Professor of Psychology, and an author on the paper.

"A high sense of control all but wipes out educational differences when it comes to mortality," Lachman says. "A person with less education but a high sense of control is practically indistinguishable from a person of high education."

Researchers determined attitudes about perceived control by asking participants to rank agreement to a set of statements. For example, participants were given the statement, "Sometimes I feel I am being pushed around in my life," and asked to rank their agreement from one (strongly disagree) to seven (strongly agree).

The study's public health implications are exciting, says Lachman.

"There are methods and strategies for improving one's sense of control, and educational experiences are one of them," Lachman says. "We could implement those approaches in educational and public health programs aimed at increasing health-promoting attitudes and behaviors and ultimately lowering mortality risks."

Related Stories

Belief in precognition increases sense of control over life

August 7, 2013

People given scientific evidence supporting our ability to predict the future feel a greater sense of control over their lives, according to research published August 7 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Katharine Greenaway ...

Recommended for you

Neural efficiency hypothesis confirmed

July 27, 2015

One of the big questions intelligence researchers grapple with is just how differences in intelligence are reflected in the human brain. Researchers at ETH Zurich have succeeded in studying further details relating to suspected ...

Fatherhood makes men fat

July 21, 2015

All those leftover pizza crusts you snatch from your kids' plates add up. Men gain weight after they become fathers for the first time whether or not they live with their children, reports a large, new Northwestern Medicine ...

Words jump-start vision, psychologist's study shows

July 21, 2015

Cognitive scientists have come to view the brain as a prediction machine, constantly comparing what is happening around us to expectations based on experience—and considering what should happen next.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.