For a long time, researchers have sought to discover whether there was a link between longevity of life and the five major personality traits: agreeableness, extraversion, neuroticism, openness, and conscientiousness. Previously, they had found that neuroticism shortens people's lives, and that conscientiousness lengthens them.

Now, new research published in the Journal of Aging and Health, has found that openness - the ability to entertain and to be flexible to new ideas - is an indicator of a longer life. Most interestingly, they found that creative thinking lowers stress and boosts the brain's ability to keep itself healthy.

The study was conducted by researchers then from Purdue University in Indiana, the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center in Boston, and the Boston University Schools of Medicine. They examined data from 1,349 men furnished by the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. The study collected data from men between 1990 and 2008. During that period, 547 of the men studied, or 41 percent, died.

Researchers found that creativity, rather than intelligence or simply overall openness, reduced participants' death risk. Nicholas Turiano, formerly from Purdue University but who now works at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said that he believes that creativity encourages health because it promotes neural networks in the brain. Indeed, a January study conducted by Yale researchers found that increased openness correlated with higher amounts of white matter in the brain. Brains' white matter aids the connections between neurons in different portions of the brain.

Turiano says that exercising the brain is the most important factor toward having a long and healthy life. After all, the brain is the center of the body, and exercising it keeps the body's functions running smoothly.

Turiano also says that creative people handle stress better than their peers. Stress has been linked with various health issues, like cardiovascular problems, immune systems, and even dementia. When facing stressors, creative people more often see hurdles as able to be overcome, rather than some people who see them as insurmountable.

Studies have so far looked at people who are naturally more creative and open-minded, but the research suggests that the practice of creative-thinking techniques can help people lower stress and exercise the brain.