A recently released study from the Harvard School of Public Health has found that children's ability to focus on a task at age 7 predicted their physical health thirty years later.
Children who persisted longer on a difficult task were less likely to have experienced a serious health problem such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, or cancer. The same was true for kids who were less easily distressed by, or likely to withdraw from, a difficult situation.
It's not clear whether these kids were simply born with better attention and perseverance, or whether focus is something that can be taught. However, I know a few folks who are betting on the latter--going into schools to teach kids how to focus their attention and regulate their emotions. For example, Little Flower Yoga is teaching kids in inner-city schools in NY and Yoga Calm brings yoga to classrooms in the Midwest and Northwest.
Although yoga is often "sold" to schools and parents as a way to increase physical fitness, the physical practices of most yoga-for-kids programs also do an incredible job teaching relaxation, mental focus, and emotion regulation skills.
Study source: Early manifestations of personality and adult health: A life course perspective. Health Psychology, 13 (1).
Authors: LD Kubzansky, LT Martin, SL Buka.
You can read the full article here.