Your Friends Can Tell You How Long You’ll Probably Live

“Your friends will know you better in the first minute you meet than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years.” —Richard Bach

In A Nutshell

You can go to the doctor, read all the latest medical news, and obsess over your health all you want. But a recent study shows that your friends, especially close ones, can tell how long you’ll live based on your personality in your twenties. If you’re a man whose friends see you as open and conscientious, you’ll probably live longer. For women, you want your friends to see you as agreeable and emotionally stable.

The Whole Bushel

We’re always looking for new ways to predict how healthy we are and how long we’ll live. Some of the more recent news tells us that our life spans can be predicted by chemical changes that occur in our bodies as we age. By analyzing blood samples for methylation, a chemical change that affects how certain genes are turned on or off, we can come up with a biological age for any individual. If your biological age is greater than your actual age, then you’ll probably die sooner than someone whose biological age equals his or her actual age.

Unfortunately, that test requires a trip to the doctor. If you want to skip the doctor, you can try a simple test called the Sitting Rising Test (SRT). Invented by a doctor in Brazil, the SRT is supposed to predict the probability that you’ll die within five years. To take the test, you cross your feet and sit on the floor for five points. Then you get back up for another five points. You lose a point every time you use a hand, arm, or knee to help you. Another half point is deducted each time you lose your balance, whether sitting down or getting up. Every point is worth a 21 percent reduction in your risk of dying.

But there’s an even easier way to predict your longevity, and if you’re a people person, it’s a lot more fun. It’s based on the results of a 75-year study that shows your friends are better at predicting how long you’ll live than you are. Washington University psychologists looked at data from the 1930s through 2013 concerning the health of 600 men and women. When the study began, the participants were in their mid-twenties with most engaged to be married. The participants and their close friends, which included members of their wedding parties, rated the personality traits of people in the study.

Combining this information with follow-up studies from the original research as well as death certificates, the psychologists came to a surprising conclusion: Your friends, especially close ones, can tell how long you’ll live based on your personality in your twenties. If you’re a man whose friends see you as open and conscientious, you’ll probably live longer. For women, you want your friends to see you as agreeable and emotionally stable.

The researchers believe your friends are better than you at predicting your life span for a couple of reasons. “First, friends may see something that you miss; they may have some insight that you do not,” said psychologist Joshua Jackson. “Second, because people have multiple friends, we are able to average the idiosyncrasies of any one friend to obtain a more reliable assessment of personality. With self reports, people may be biased or miss certain aspects of themselves and we are not able to counteract that because there is only one you, only one self-report.”

Show Me The Proof

Discovery News: DNA ‘Clock’ Could Predict How Long You’ll Live
USA Today: How long will you live? Try the Sitting Rising Test
Washington University: Friends know how long you’ll live, study finds