Mellow Out

Memo to men: keep a lid on the neuroticism as you get older.

That's the message of a study to be published in May, in which scientists tracked 1,663 men in the Veterans Administration health system starting in 1988, when they ranged from 43 to 91 years old. Among other things, the researchers measured how neurotic the men were "which basically means their tendency to worry, feel anxious, and get stressed out and frazzled easily. Contrary to the popular idea that neuroticism and other personality traits are set in stone because they have a genetic basis, it can in fact increase or decrease by a lot over the decades. Also contrary to the idea that people mellow with age, about half the men got more neurotic as they got older. In 823, levels of neuroticism fell, while in 840 it rose.

That's the group you don't want to be in, find psychology researchers Dan Mroczek of Purdue University and Avron Spiro of Boston University. "(There were no women in the sample.)