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Autonomous orientation predicts longevity: New findings from the Nun Study

Weinstein, Netta ORCID:, Legate, Nicola, Ryan, William S and Hemmy, Laura 2019. Autonomous orientation predicts longevity: New findings from the Nun Study. Journal of Personality 87 (2) , pp. 181-193. 10.1111/jopy.12379

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Objective. Work on longevity has found protective social, cognitive and emotional factors, but to date we have little understanding of the impact of motivational dynamics. Autonomy orientation, or stable patterns of self-regulation, is theorized to be a protective factor for longterm mental and physical health (Ryan & Deci, 2017), and is therefore a prime candidate for examining how stable psychosocial factors are linked to longevity, or life expectancy. Method. Essays written in the 1930s by participants in the Nun Study were coded for indicators of an autonomy orientation. These were selected in line with an extensive theoretical literature based in self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Essays were coded for the propensity for choice in action, susceptibility to pressure, self-reflection, integration of experiences, and parental support for autonomy. These coded variables were used to predict age of death. Results. Using 176 codeable essays provided by now deceased participants, linear regression analyses revealed that choiceful behavior, self-reflection, and parent autonomy support predicted age of death. Participants who demonstrated these stable and beneficial motivational characteristics lived longer. Conclusions. Personality constructs reflecting a healthy form of self-regulation are associated with long-term health. Implications for health interventions are discussed.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0022-3506
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 5 March 2018
Date of Acceptance: 1 March 2018
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 22:33

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