People who have mastered 5 key life skills are likely to experience better health, less depression, less social isolation, fewer chronic diseases and greater financial stability in older age than people who have fewer of these life skills. That’s the conclusion of a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers questioned more than 8,000 adults aged 52 and older to determine how specific personal attributes were linked to health and well-being in older age. The results suggested that the following life skills boosted the odds of welll-being:

  • optimism
  • conscientiousness
  • emotional stability
  • control
  • determination

“No single attribute was more important than the others,” the study’s co-author explained. “Rather, the effects depended on the accumulation of life skills.”

The researchers found that only about 3% of study participants with 4 or 5 of these life skills reported experiencing depression. However, among those with the fewest of these life skills nearly 25% reported symptoms of depression. Similarly, just 11% of participants with 4 or 5 of the life skills reported feeling high levels of loneliness, while nearly 50% of those with the fewest skills did so. Just 6% of people with 4 or 5 of the life skills reported poor to fair health, compared with 33% of those with the lowest number of life skills.


This article originally appeared in Mind, Mood & Memory, a publication of the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, dedicated to maintaining mental fitness for middle age and beyond.

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