OPEN Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America | 12 Apr 2017
A Steptoe and J Wardle
Life skills play a key role in promoting educational and occupational success in early life, but their relevance at older ages is uncertain. Here we measured five life skills-conscientiousness, emotional stability, determination, control, and optimism-in 8,119 men and women aged 52 and older (mean 66.7 y). We show that the number of skills is associated with wealth, income, subjective wellbeing, less depression, low social isolation and loneliness, more close relationships, better self-rated health, fewer chronic diseases and impaired activities of daily living, faster walking speed, and favorable objective biomarkers (concentration of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, vitamin D and C-reactive protein, and less central obesity). Life skills also predicted sustained psychological wellbeing, less loneliness, and a lower incidence of new chronic disease and physical impairment over a 4-y period. These analyses took account of age, sex, parental socioeconomic background, education, and cognitive function. No single life skill was responsible for the associations we observed, nor were they driven by factors such as socioeconomic status or health. Despite the vicissitudes of later life, life skills impact a range of outcomes, and the maintenance of these attributes may benefit the older population.
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