All your life you’ve probably been encouraged to master “life skills.” Active listening, verbal and non-verbal communication – all necessary traits to be psychosocially competent. While it is important to learn these skills early in life, not much is known about the effects of these skills as one ages – until now.

Last year, the University College London (UCL) conducted research pertaining to life skills and their impact on people. The study found that mastering five specific life skills are crucial to finding happiness, securing financial stability, and enjoying a successful career.

The skills – emotional stability, determination, control, optimism, conscientiousness – are just as important during adolescence and young adulthood as they are later in life. Researchers at UCL examined the impact of the skills in over 8,000 men and women aged 52 years old or older.

The end result? Those who utilized these skills in their everyday lives fared much better in the long run across the board.

Whether you’re in retirement, working the last few years of your job, or still have an entire career ahead of you, it’s never too late to recognize these attributes and incorporate them into your everyday life.

According to the published academic paper, “No single attribute was especially important; rather, effects depended on the accumulation of life skills. Our results suggest that fostering and maintaining these skills in adult life may be relevant to health and wellbeing at older ages.”

So, how did researchers actually measure the impact of the skills? While initially this study may sound slightly abstract, the research is supported by data.

What They Did

In order to measure these five life skills, researchers developed unique indexes and scales for each skill. Participants were then asked to complete these indexes based on what they believed was true for themselves. A limited number of people possessed all five life skills.

From there, researchers investigated the relationship between the statistics of these surveys and economical, psychosocial, health, physical capability, and biological outcomes. All analyses took into consideration various factors such as age, gender, socioeconomic background, and educational attainment to help establish that these life skills and outcomes were not due to certain advantages some people may have over others.

What They Discovered

The data showed that the five life skills were evident in all three categories of wealth, health, and career success.

In regards to wealth, the proportion of participants with the most financial security was positively associated with a great number of life skills.

In the health domain, many of those that rated themselves as having poor health also lacked life skills. On the other hand, life skills were “inversely associated with the prevalence of impaired activities of daily living.”

As for career success and overall well-being, those with more life skills were less lonely and maintained several close relationships with others.

Of course, you should embrace more than just five life skills if you want to have a well-rounded life. However, understanding these five traits is a great place to start.

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