Forgive yourself if you want to live longer, scientists say

Those lacking ‘self-compassion’ get stressed more easily and let it affect them over a longer period of time – leading to serious health problems

Scientists and doctors have long said there is a very close link between a person’s ability to deal with stress and their long-term health.

Usually we are tempted to blame this on external factors – a difficult relationship, pressures at work or pure rage at the inadequacies of public transport.

Yet for the first time a group of researchers in New York have discovered that a large part of this stress can be put down to “self-compassion” or, as they put it, whether you are willing to “cut yourself some slack”.

The team from Brandeis University suggested that a capacity for self-forgiveness would lead people not to blame themselves for stress factors beyond their control, ultimately translating into a longer and happier life.

To test this, they carried out an experiment involving 41 healthy young adults who were asked to endure an unspecified “standard laboratory stressor” (listening to Justin Bieber, we speculate), and have their stress levels measured before and after over two days.

Ahead of the study, each participant was surveyed on their responses to statements such as “I try to be understanding and patient toward aspects of my personality I do not like” and “I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies”.

On the first day, the scientists said, those with higher self-compassion “exhibited significantly lower stress responses… even when controlling for self-esteem, depressive symptoms, demographic factors, and distress”.

Even more surprising was the second day’s results – the test subjects with low self-compassion were found to exhibit higher “baseline” stress levels (measured before they were subjected to something annoying) than they had the day before.

This suggested that not only do people lacking self-forgiveness get more stressed in the first place, but they also hold onto that stress for longer – a trait which puts them at risk of long term health problems.

Stress levels were measured by testing concentrations of an inflammatory agent known to be linked to stress, interleukin-6 (IL-6).

“These findings suggest that self-compassion may serve as a protective factor against stress-induced inflammation and inflammation-related disease,” the study said. Psychological stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s if it is allowed to get out of control.

The team’s findings were published in the March edition of the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...