Sunday, November 29, 2015         

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Childhood traits hint at health later in life, decades-long Hawaii study suggests

By Star-Advertiser staff


Children who are irresponsible, careless or lacking in perseverance may be more likely to suffer obesity and overall poor health as adults, according to results from a longitudinal study conducted in Hawaii that spanned some six decades.

Findings from the study, which was conducted by the Oregon Research Institute in cooperation with Kaiser Permanente Center for Health in Hawaii, were published in the August edition of Health Psychology.

The study draws from information first collected in the 1960s when more than 2,000 children from elementary schools in Hawaii were assessed on their personality characteristics. In 1998, ORI was awarded funding from the National Institute for Mental Health to locate and examine the health-related behaviors and mental and physical health status of those students.

More than 800 participants were ultimately examined at Kaiser Permanente locations on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.

The results indicate a strong relationship between childhood conscientiousness and adult health status. While those who exhibit poor personal habits were more likely to experience health problems as they aged, those who were organized, dependable and self-disciplined as children were more likely to enjoy better health as adults.

“These findings suggest avenues for further research that may lead to interventions,” said ORI scientist Sarah Hampson. “People who are more conscientious tend to have better health habits and less stress, which protects them from disease. Self-control is a key part of being conscientious, so our findings confirm the importance of teaching children self-control to enable them to grow up to be healthy adults.”

Hampson was recently took part in a panel on personality and health at the national American Psychological Association meeting in Honolulu.

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