In a 1996 study published in Psychology and Aging, more than 1,000 older adults aged 60 to 86 were carefully observed over a five-year period, and researchers found that those who were rated as being more curious at the beginning of the study were more likely to be alive at its conclusion, even after taking into account age, whether they smoked, the presence of cancer or cardiovascular disease, and so on.
It is possible that declining curiosity is an initial sign of neurological illness and declining health. Nonetheless, there are promising signs that enhancing curiosity reduces the risk for these diseases and may even reverse some of the natural degeneration that occurs in older adults.
In his book, The Power of Premonitions (Dutton, 2009), Larry Dossey, MD, cites studies that have shown women “who regularly engage in mini-mysteries … taking on novel experiences that get them out of familiar routines (better) preserve their mental faculties later in life.” In short, a regular dose of the unexpected helps keep your brain healthy.
A 2005 report in the journal Health Psychology described a two-year study involving more than 1,000 patients that found higher levels of curiosity were also associated with a decreased likelihood of developing hypertension and diabetes. While correlation does not imply causation, these relationships suggest that curiosity may have a variety of positive connections with health that deserve further study.