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Self-control helps you control your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is an important personality trait that helps you navigate through life. In fact, according to a New Zealand study, having self-control as a child tends to produce healthier middle-aged adults. (1)

Self-Controlled Children Study

The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study followed 1,000 people from their birth until the age of 45. Those who demonstrated better self-control as children aged more slowly, with healthier and “biologically” younger bodies and brains. (1)

Through structured interviews, researchers found the higher self-control group appeared better able to manage challenges later in life. This included health, financial, and social challenges. Financial preparedness was confirmed through credit checks. (1)

Later Life Satisfaction In Self-Controlled Children

When it comes to positivity and life satisfaction, the childhood self-controlled groups fared better. “Our population is growing older, and living longer with age-related diseases,” says first author of the study Leah Richmond-Rakerd, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. “It’s important to identify ways to help individuals prepare successfully for later-life challenges, and live more years free of disability. We found that self-control in early life may help set people up for healthy aging.” (1)

Self-Controlled Children With Higher IQs

The study found those with better self-control came from more financially secure families. They also had higher IQs. However, socio-economic status and IQ aside, the main factor in healthier middle-aged adults was self-control. (1)

These findings are not finite. There were cases where some participants did improve self-control as adults. In these cases, they saw better outcomes based on their self-control levels as children might have predicted. (1)

Teaching Self-Control

Because self-control also can be taught, the team believes training in childhood could improve lifespan as well as quality of life. This makes it a good societal investment. Even changing habits later in life can lead to improved outcomes, such as exercising more, or quitting smoking.  (1)

“Everyone fears an old age that’s sickly, poor, and lonely, so aging well requires us to get prepared, physically, financially, and socially,” says last author Terrie Moffitt, the Nannerl O. Keohane Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke. “We found people who have used self-control since childhood are far more prepared for aging than their same-age peers.” (1)

Self-Controlled Children Testing

Those involved in the study were born between 1972 and 1973. Participants were put through extensive psychological and health assessments on a regular basis throughout their lives. (1)

Self-control measures were assessed at ages 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 by teachers, parents, and the children themselves. Assessments considered aspects of self-control including impulses such as aggression, overactivity, inattention, and perseverance. (1)

Later assessments held between ages 26 to 45 measured physiological signs of aging in organ systems such as the brain. Those with the highest self-control walked faster and looked younger. (1)

“But if you aren’t prepared for aging yet, your 50’s is not too late to get ready,” says Moffitt. (1)



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