People with neurotic tendencies live longer, says new study

The old saying about worrying yourself into an early grave is a myth, suggests a new study.

Turns out worrying could be good for you, according to a new study. Picture: ThinkStock

And people with neurotic tendencies actually live longer, according to the research.

A study of more than 500,000 Britons found the characteristic reduced the risk of death for those who were in “fair” or “poor” health.

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The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, also showed a specific aspect related to feelings of vulnerability was linked with lower mortality - regardless of well-being.

Professor Catharine Gale, of Edinburgh University, said: “Our findings are important because they suggest being high in neuroticism may sometimes have a protective effect - perhaps by making people more vigilant about their health.”

Five years ago US researchers found neurotics displayed the lowest levels of a biomarker linked to inflammation and chronic disease.

They are usually moody, nervous and worriers and the trait has been associated with depression and excessive drinking and smoking.

Prof Gale said by definition they are more likely to experience negative emotions such as irritability, frustration and guilt.

But research investigating links between neuroticism and mortality have produced inconsistent results.

Some have shown higher risk of death and others no relationship - or even less risk.

So Prof Gale and colleagues suspected the relationship could depend on how people rated their health.

The researchers used data from the UK Biobank collected from 502,655 people aged 37 to 73 who completed a validated personality assessment measuring neuroticism.

They also indicated if they thought they were in excellent, good, fair or poor health overall.

The data also included information on smoking, exercise, body mass index, blood pressure, cognitive function and medical diagnoses such as heart problems, diabetes and cancer.

Death certificates from the NHS Central Registry revealed 4,497 participants died in the follow-up period of 6.25 years, on average.

In general mortality was slightly higher among those with higher levels of neuroticism.

But when Prof Gale and colleagues took into account self-rated health the trend was reversed - with slightly lower risk of death from all causes and from cancer.

Prof Gale said: “When we explored this further we found this protective effect was only present in people who rated their health as fair or poor.”