In Italy's mountainous Cilento region on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, it is not uncommon for villagers to live well into their 90s and sometimes beyond 100. Researchers from the University of Rome La Sapienza and University of California, San Diego, recently set out to discovery why, and in January they published their findings in International Psychogeriatrics.
While most longevity studies primarily analyze diets or genetics, for this study, the researchers focused on participants' character traits.
"There is no one way to get to 90 or 100, and I don't think it requires a radical change in personality," author Dilip V. Jeste, senior associate dean for the Center of Healthy Aging at UC San Diego School of Medicine, told TIME. "But this shows that there are certain attributes that are very important, including resilience, strong social support and engagement and having confidence in yourself."
Jeste and his colleagues observed these traits in the study's 29 participants between the ages of 90 and 101, who they interviewed to gather a sense of their personal histories, beliefs and the trials they've had to overcome throughout their lives.
The researchers also used quantitative evaluations to scale their physical and mental health, and they asked younger family members to describe their impressions of their older relatives' personalities.