You Should Know

/ 3 years ago /

 Article by Brenda Wong

New UCL research claims these life skills make you healthier, happier and richer

Trust the boffins over at the University College London to come up with the goods. Researchers at UCL have published a recent study claiming they’ve identified five key life skills. These will apparently make you healthier, happier, and richer in the long run (whoa).

The five life skills that will legitimately upgrade your life

life skills that will upgrade your life

The study, published in the journal PNAS, aimed to understand the impact of having non-cognitive skills later on in life. They’ve defined life skills as ‘a set of personal characteristics and capabilities thought to increase chances of success and well-being, in case you were curious. According to the paper, these are the aforementioned skills:

  • emotional stability
  • determination
  • control
  • optimism
  • conscientiousness

“No single attribute was more important than others,” says Professor Andrew Steptoe (UCL Epidemiology and Public Health), who co-led the research.  “Rather, the effects depended on the accumulation of life skills.”

We know what you must be thinking. Of course these skills will help you in life – it’s almost a bit too obvious. The real takeaway from the study, however, is not how it affects your life now, but how it does in the future.

Adulting 101 

In the study, academics observed the impact of the five skills in over 8,000 men and women aged 52 and older who took part in a survey called the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. The results revealed that people who have more of these non-cognitive skills will enjoy a real range of benefits. They’ll have greater financial stability, less depression, lower social isolation, better health, and fewer chronic diseases.

What’s fascinating is that the study had a nurse run a health check for the participants. The top percentile of individuals (the ones who had all of the skills), had ‘favourable objective bio-markers’ in their blood. This meant smaller waistlines (crucial for preventing heart disease), lower cholesterol, and lower levels of C-reactive protein (which causes inflammation).

So, moral of the story? Developing these skills will legit help you live longer. Pretty neat.

They’re healthier, sure. But how about happiness and wealth?

can life skills really affect your future wealth?

Right, let’s tackle happiness. The study found a clear correlation between the number of those life skills you had, and loneliness. The less skills, the more lonely and socially isolated the participants are. Furthermore, the proportion of participants reporting significant depressive symptoms declined from 22.8% (less skills) to a meager 3.1% (more skills).

As for wealth? Admittedly, the study is fuzzier on this than the other outcomes. They did see a correlation between greater wealth and the number of skills, but weren’t quite able to pin down why.

Researchers reckon it may be down to two things. Firstly, that the people who have better life skills may have already had a better socioeconomic background to begin with. As in, of course they’d have these skills – they’ve had more resources. Having said this, the study said they took out cognitive function, education and family background into account, and ruled them out as being responsible for the skills acquired.

The second possibility is to do with health. More life skills = better health = better productivity because you’re not sick all the time, basically.

“We were surprised by the range of processes – economic, social, psychological, biological, and health and disability related – that seem to be related to these life skills,” Steptoe continued.  “Our research suggests that fostering and maintaining these skills in adult life may be relevant to health and well-being at older ages.”

You gotcha Doc. We’ll sure try our best.

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