Jonas Enge
Jonas Enge@maccyber
Can Personality Affect What Diseases We Get?

Can Personality Affect What Diseases We Get?

3 min read

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Outgoing Personalities and Health

Are you a person with clear extroverted personality traits—social, warm, thrill-seeking, and positive? If so, it's less likely you'll suffer from heart disease. However, you may be more prone to anxiety and depression.

Compassionate Personalities and Risks

If you exhibit compassionate personality traits—trusting, sensitive, and often modest—you may be more susceptible to heart disease, but it's less likely you'll develop cancer.

The Study

This finding comes from Australian researchers who followed 17,000 people throughout their lives. They describe the links as striking. However, it's too early to definitively state their accuracy.

Research Methodology

The study primarily involved mapping out the dominant personality traits of participants. Researchers then correlated these traits with who developed a serious illness four years later.

Other Findings

Another personality trait, conscientiousness (organized, highly disciplined, dutiful, and eager to acquire skills), was linked to lower incidences of both heart disease and anxiety/depression among Australians.

On the other hand, neuroticism (anxious, hostile, impulsive, and vulnerable) was associated with issues like high blood pressure and anxiety/depression.

Uncertainty Remains

Interestingly, the Australian findings that compassionate traits increase the risk of heart diseases contradict previous research, which linked more hostile traits with a higher risk of these conditions.

Despite the uncertainties that still pervade this area of research, several researchers highlight the potential for preventive health measures—if it can be conclusively proven that certain personality traits pave the way for serious diseases.

Longitudinal Study

The Australian researchers utilized data from the large-scale Australian population study HILDA, which tracks the same individuals over many years.

Participants in HILDA completed a form that asked how well 36 different words described them, allowing researchers to score them on the five personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism.

Behavior Matters

Researchers at The University of Melbourne argue that it's not necessarily the personality traits themselves that cause sickness or health but rather the behaviors influenced by these traits—behaviors that can predispose people to diseases through actions like smoking or protect them through actions like exercising.

Neuroticism's Clear Link

The idea that different personality traits might relate to diseases has been popular among researchers since the 1950s. Yet, it wasn't until recently that any studies could definitively state such connections—except, perhaps, for neuroticism's clear link to psychological disorders.

International Studies

Both a 2014 American study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science and earlier studies found that individuals with a dominant trait of conscientiousness are less likely to suffer from serious diseases.

Additionally, the trait of openness, indicating a willingness to embrace new ideas and experiences, was found to reduce the risk of various diseases, including heart diseases, strokes, and high blood pressure, according to researchers in St. Louis (USA) and Toronto (Canada). People who are more open are likely more proactive in finding strategies that prevent heart diseases.

Conclusion

In the latest studies, researchers found no correlation between any of the five broad personality traits and an increased risk of cancer, underscoring the complex and nuanced nature of personality's impact on health.

Sources

Personality traits and health
Extraversion and heart disease
Compassionate personality risks
Australian health study
Personality traits correlation with illness
Conscientiousness and health benefits
Neuroticism and psychological disorders
Longitudinal personality research
HILDA study Australia
Behavioral impacts on health
Personality and preventive health measures
International studies on personality
Openness and disease prevention
Personality traits and serious diseases
Personality science
Social Psychological and Personality Science
Personality traits and cancer risk
Impact of personality on health outcomes
Health behaviors and personality
Long-term health and personality traits