These five skills are the key to happiness and success, says study

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Hayley Spencer
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Whether it’s learning from the world’s most content countries, Norway and Denmark, or practicing mindfulness, we’re always looking for new ways to obtain happiness or fulfill our potential. But a new study suggests that the key to optimum health, wealth and success is as simple as cultivating five skills throughout your lifetime.

Researchers at University College London found that control, optimism, emotional stability, determination, and conscientiousness are the constituents of a happy, successful life.

To make the discovery, they looked at data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing of more than 8,000 people now in their 50s and 60s from the past 11 years.

And the conclusion was based on the fact that those who scored high in at least four of the five qualities saw far-reaching effects. They were on the whole wealthier, less prone to depression, healthier and part of a large circle of friends. 

This is compared to those who were noted to have two or less of the skills and were found to feel lonely, depressed and were more prone to chronic diseases.

36.7% of those with fewer skills rated their health as fair or poor, compared with just 6% of this with four or five of the skills.

People in the category with more skills were also found to have lower cholesterol and levels of protein which is linked to heart disease. They also had a faster walking pace, which is a predictor of longer life-span. 

The researchers work was observational, but the researchers had taken into account factors such as cognitive ability and education, and ruled them out as influences on the skills.

“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,” said Professor Andrew Steptoe of the department of Epidemiology and Public Health, who co-led the research.

And one of the most interesting things about the research is that it implies these skills can be improved upon in later life.

“No single attribute was more important than others. Rather, the effects depended on the accumulation of life skills,” said Steptoe.

While co-author Prof Jane Wardle, of UCL, concluded that it’s important to learn persistence, conscientiousness, and control in our early years, but that the skills could be cultivated in later life to improve the wellbeing of older people.

Images: iStock.