Impatience May Be in Your Chromosomes
You’ve probably known someone who could charitably be termed a “curmudgeon.” Well, new research indicates that it might be that he or she just can’t help it.
The study, conducted at the National University of Singapore, has found that there may be biological reasons that people seem to get less patient as they get older. Impatient people may be more likely to have shorter telomeres -- parts of human chromosomes that tend to get shorter as people age.
Researchers looked at the relationship between impatience and telomere length among 1,158 undergraduate students in Singapore. They measured the participants' levels of impatience by asking them to choose between receiving a smaller amount of money in a day or more money later.
Each participant also underwent a blood test to assess the length of the individuals' telomeres, the protective "caps" at the ends of chromosomes. These defend the rest of the chromosome from the erosion, or shortening, that happens each time a cell divides.
First the researchers asked the people to choose between receiving $100 the next day and receiving $101 in about a month. They gradually raised the benefit of waiting the month -- $104, $110 – until the last offer involved receiving $128 in about a month's time. Meanwhile, the first option remained at $100 the following day.
The higher the amount of money it took to convince a person to delay receiving the financial reward by a month, the higher was that person's level of impatience. Those who showed the least patience tended to have shorter telomeres.
The researchers acknowledged that it’s unclear if having shorter telomeres leads to higher levels of impatience, or if being more impatient leads to having shorter telomeres -- or if some other factor is at work.