The Grapevine

Patience Is A Virtue: Impatient People Age At A Faster Rate Than Most

Patience
Patience, like the kind exhibited by a skilled chess player, can help you age slower. Edith Soto, CC by 2.0

They say “patience is a virtue,” and it may also help keep you young. A recent study conducted by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has found that women who do not practice patience are susceptible to aging at a faster rate at the cellular level.

“Patience is indeed a virtue and women with impatient personality types are likely growing older at a faster pace than women disposed to be more patient,” said Professor Richard Ebstein, from the Department of Psychology at NUS, in a statement.

Ebstein and his colleagues recruited 1,158 healthy Chinese students from NUS to gauge the extent of their impatience. Each participant was given the choice between two options; receiving $100 the next day or a larger reward at a later time. Researchers also measured the length of each participant’s leukocyte telomeres — the cap at the end of chromosomes tasked with protecting the DNA. Telomere length is a predictor of mortality and age-related diseases, according to the statement. 

Participants who chose the $100 were considered impatient. Female students who were deemed impatient also suffered from shorter telomere length compared to those who were considered more patient. While this research team did not delve further into the link between telomere length and aging, evidence continues to show that telomeres are a predictor of aging and disease progression.

Telomeres will decrease in length every time a cell divides and ages. When the cell reaches a critical short length, it will no longer divide, which is not good for our health. Scientists from Stanford University are even working on an anti-aging therapy that actually lengthens telomeres. Telomere length isn’t only associated with aging. It’s also linked to cancer, depression, and even racism.

“Our team is among the pioneers in leveraging the natural synergy between behavioral economics and molecular genetics to seek a deeper understanding of how people make decision,” said professor Chew Soo Hong, of the NUS economics department. “The present paper illustrates the promise of this approach in delivering a fresh understanding linking impatience elicited from observable choice behavior with telomere length underpinning ageing at the molecular level.”   

Source: San Lai P, Hong Chew S, Ebstein R, et al. Delay discounting, genetic sensitivity, and leukocyte telomere length. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2016. 

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