Your Friends Know When You’ll Die*

We write a lot about mortality around here. You might be at higher risk if you watch too much TV, not because of the TV, but because of the kind of lifestyle the TV indicates. You might be actually increasing your risk of death by arguing a lot. But fruits and vegetables can reduce that risk, so chow down. Well, here’s an even simpler way to figure out when you’ll die: just ask your friends.

A study published in Psychological Science has found that your friends are actually pretty good judges of when you’ll kick the bucket. Back in the 1930s, researchers launched the Kelly Longitudinal Study, which saw them assess 300 young married couples for all kinds of things and then regularly check in. One of the things they did was give questionnaires on personality to three to eight of each couple’s friends.

When compared with death records for the study participants, researchers found that men viewed as more conscientious by their friends tended to live longer. In fact, the most conscientious man had a 30% lower mortality than the average. Similarly, women considered the emotionally stable by their friends had a 15% lower mortality risk.

Researchers also compared the friends’ ratings to their subjects’ self-ratings, and they found that the friends’ ratings were more accurate.

So what’s at play? Well, your friends know you pretty well, and they might be a little more honest with you that you would be with yourself. Also, there are more of them than you. Keep that in mind the next time you want to know something about yourself.


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