How Your Personality Affects You
Personality is one of the last frontiers psychology started to study. Personality is a complex topic, but universal. Everyone has a personality. Everyone describes others by their personality using adjectives and descriptive words that are observed or perceived.
For decades, psychologists have categorized personality into different categories to help us understand ourselves and others better. Longevity and personality is a complex, but intriguing topic.
There are many different theories that try to explain our personality and how these characteristics may or may not affect longevity.
Evolutionary theory says that people who are extroverted enough to make friends and help others are going to be able to have enough resources to survive even in tougher times.
Big Five Personality Traits
The Big Five Personality Theory is often used as a basis to define personality. Certain choices such as smoking, exercise, diet, drug and alcohol use, and risky behavior are linked to personality and directly affect mortality. Additionally,quality of life decisions, social relationships, mental and physical health, and socioeconomic status are associated with personality. The Big Five Personality Traits, which rate people’s personality on a scale include:
neuroticism vs emotional stability
extraversion vs introversion
openness to experiences vs closed
agreeableness vs antagonism
conscientiousness vs irresponsibility
Conscientiousness is related to self discipline, striving for achievement, reliability, responsibility, and diligence.
People who are perfectionists or compulsive or rigid may have negative effects on their longevity due to causing more self stress. On the positive side, people who are conscientious may be more disciplined in healthy daily activities, such as with diet and exercise. They may be more likely to avoid smoking, and excessive drug and alcohol use.
Conscientious people are better able to anticipate and prepare for the future, against potential difficulties, tend to be more organized and have greater self discipline. These aspects of behavior can prevent certain stressful situations from ever arising or escalating and can make for better coping during difficult circumstances.
Personality and Our Behavior
Aspects of personality such as openness and IQ need more study to determine if there are any links between this part of people’s personality and their length of years.
Extroversion is related to being positive, social, and having an engaged and busy lifestyle, and even excitement seeking. Greater sociability is related to longevity. But people who are extroverted, yet seek excitement and are greater risk takers, or have poor self control and are impulsive, or smoke may increase their mortality risk and negate the positive effects that extroversion offers.
Impulsiveness is a facet of neuroticism as part of the Big Five Personality Traits. People who are impulsive and have a less self control usually rank high on neuroticism and low on the conscientiousness scale. One study found that impulsivity in elderly people was associated with a greater survival rate within three years. It is thought that this might occur because impulsivity may be related to being able to process faster, which may be related to an older person’s better cognitive ability.
More neurotic people can be linked to obesity, which can impact longevity. Neuroticism is associated with many negative outcomes.
Optimism and Personality Traits
Optimism is part of the extroversion scale. Being optimistic with an eye on good future outcomes is associated with a lower risk of mortality over 40 years in a study done with college freshman. One study found that there was no effect for being positive and cancer mortality, but there was a related association with pessimism.
Optimistic people tend to have better adaptive coping skills. Optimism is also linked to having lower blood pressure. Some evidence however, suggests that optimism may affect our immune function because optimistic people experience more frustration when they don’t achieve success and persist long in stressful situations, waiting for positive results.
Locus of control, or a person’s perceived self control and their own ability to achieve what they want for themselves allows people to deal with stress and challenges better, and this too may help towards longevity. There are two ranges that a person’s beliefs sit between internal or external. External locus of control means people believe they have no control about their fate and their actions have nothing to do with the results they are dealing with. Internal locus of control means they believe they control their own fate through their behavior. Internal locus of control usually allows people to be future oriented, taking more of a leadership role, setting a target, and developing strategies to accomplish them. Locus of control fits within the category of openness to experiences within the Big Five Personality Theory.
Personality and Emotional Stability
Personality traits are typically categorized as dimensions, ranging from very high to very low. These dimensions do not include certain personality aspects that may be worth considering when looking at personality and longevity. Some of these include: sensuality, spirituality, masculinity and femininity, and thriftiness.
Two personality characteristics that have been linked to longevity and good health are emotional stability and conscientiousness.
People who are more emotionally stable tend to handle stress better than those people who tend to be more neurotic and anxious, or moody. Negative personality traits such as these were studied by Daniel Mroczek, a psychologist at Purdue University. Mroczek wanted to know if people have the ability to change and how this would affect their physical well being.
In a study involving over 1600 men over a twelve year study, Mroczek measured how neurotic the men were and whether the men got more neurotic over time. He found that the more neurotic men tended to not live as long as the men who were less neurotic. All the men were middle age or older, and those who were more worried, stressed, and anxious did not age gracefully. Their negative and neurotic behavior increased their risk of dying from cancer and heart disease. However, the study found if they men managed their behavior, and calmed themselves down, their survival rates were equal to emotionally stable men.
People and Their Personalities
Conscientious people were also studied. Brent Roberts of the University of Illinois, found that people who were orderly, industrious, reliable, and had other conscientious traits had an increased lifespan over those who did not have these traits.
The theory is that conscientious people may create a life direction that contributes to better health and this allows them to be more successful in their careers and earn more money, and have a more stable family life, and socializing more. These factors are known to contribute directly to better health. .
Roberts did a study with women from 21 to 52 years old and concluded that women who were more conscientious in college were less likely to divorce, had more children, greater job stability, and higher job satisfaction. Also conscientious people are less risk takers and do fewer foolish and daring things. They tend to not smoke or drink, they drive slower, and may choose better sex partners. All these things help protect against some harmful situations.
Generally, much of the research has shown that people who are::
have less hostility
better coping skills to deal with stress
These traits have a greater association with longevity.
There is limited evidence that traits such as the amount of control a person perceives they have in their lives, how extroverted they are, those who let out their emotions more freely, and their openness may also be linked to longevity.
Are You a Nervous Type of Person?
Neuroticism may affect life expectancy, but some aspects of being neurotic may offer protective aspects to longevity.
Characteristics that make up a person’s personality come from a series of interrelated thoughts, feelings and behaviors. These characteristics sit on a spectrum or range going from mild to extreme, and are relatively consistent on a day to day basis. Changes occur over time, usually due to environmental factors, maturity and experiences, or intentional changes that may come from things like therapy, purposeful changes, or intervention.
Personality is a reflection of genetic and environmental influences. Studies done with twins show that inherited personality traits account for about 40 to 50% of the characteristics that make up a person’s behavior, preferences, and attitudes. The other 50 to 60% come from environmental influences.
It has been difficult for science to locate specific personality genes because it is believed that these traits are composed of complex combinations and interactions between certain genes and that personality does not come from any single gene that makes up our dna.
It is interesting that whatever factors cause personality, our personality affects every aspect of our lives, including longevity.
Choices like smoking, our diet, exercising, alcohol and drug use, risk taking behavior, and decisions we make about our health and care for ourselves are linked to the personality we have. The decisions we make are influenced by the way we think, which is part of our personality. Science has found a link between emotional patterns and some of the chemicals that are produced by our pituitary gland and our brain. Our personality influences our socio economic status, which also affects our health care decisions and the lifestyle choices we make.
The way we think affects the way we behave. These reflect our personality and the choices we make for ourselves. These choices may impact our lifespan, our quality of life and the way we enjoy our time. Certain personality types expose themselves to less risk, better care taking of themselves, and better decisions and greater overall satisfactions for the things they do and accomplish..
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