Secret of long life might have been found in Italian villagers aged 90-plus

Rob Waugh
The researchers spoke to people in the Cilento region

The secret of long life might have been found among remote Italian villagers – and before you ask, it’s nothing to do with olive oil or the ‘Mediterranean diet’.

Researchers from the University of California San Diego interviewed hundreds of villagers aged over 90 in the Cilento region of southern Italy.

Previous studies had focused on genetics – but the researchers found common psychological traits in people who had lived into their tenth decade.

Dr Dilip V. Jeste of the University of San Diego, ‘The main themes that emerged from our study, and appear to be the unique features associated with better mental health of this rural population, were positivity, work ethic, stubbornness and a strong bond with family, religion and land.’


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‘Studying the strategies of exceptionally long-lived and lived-well individuals, who not just survive but also thrive and flourish, enhances our understanding of health and functional capacities in all age groups.’

The researchers found that their interviewees tended to have a strong bond with the land – on which many of them still worked – and be stubborn.

Interview responses also suggested that the participants had considerable self-confidence and decision-making skills.

Anna Scelzo of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Chiavarese, Italy said, ‘The group’s love of their land is a common theme and gives them a purpose in life. Most of them are still working in their homes and on the land. They think, ‘This is my life and I’m not going to give it up.’”