Study: Personality traits associated with stress and worry can be hazardous to your health

August 18, 2009 by Amy Patterson Neuber
Study: Personality traits associated with stress and worry can be hazardous to your health
Daniel Mroczek is a researcher at Purdue University. Credit: Purdue University News Service

(PhysOrg.com) -- Personality traits associated with chronic worrying can lead to earlier death, at least in part because these people are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, according to research from Purdue University.

"Research shows that higher levels of neuroticism can lead to earlier mortality, and we wanted to know why," said Daniel K. Mroczek, (pronounced Mro-ZAK) a professor of and family studies. "We found that having worrying tendencies or being the kind of person who stresses easily is likely to lead to bad behaviors like and, therefore, raise the mortality rate.

"This work is a reminder that high levels of some personality traits can be hazardous to one's ."

Chronic worrying, anxiety and being prone to depression are key aspects of the personality trait of neuroticism. In this study, the researchers looked at how smoking and heavy drinking are associated with the trait. A person with high neuroticism is likely to experience anxiety or depression and may self-medicate with tobacco, alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism.

They found that smoking accounted for about 25 percent to 40 percent of the association between high neuroticism and mortality. The other 60 percent is unexplained, but possibly attributed to biological factors or other environmental issues that neurotic individuals experience, Mroczek said.

The researchers analyzed data of 1,788 men and their smoking behavior and personality traits over a 30-year period from 1975 to 2005. The data was part of the VA Normative Aging Study, which is a long-term study of aging men based at the Boston VA Outpatient Clinic.

Mroczek and his co-authors, Avron Spiro III and Nicholas A. Turiano, published their findings in this month's Journal of Research in Personality.

A better understanding of the bridge between personality traits and physical health can perhaps help clinicians improve intervention and prevention programs, Mroczek said.

"For example, programs that target people high in neuroticism may get bigger bang for the buck than more widespread outreach efforts," he said. "It also may be possible to use personality traits to identify people who, because of their predispositions, are at risk for engaging in poor health behaviors such as smoking or excessive drinking."

Source: Purdue University (news : web)

Explore further: Study links propensity toward worry to early death

Related Stories

Uncertainty can be more stressful than clear negative feedback

November 20, 2008

We are faced with uncertainty every day. Will our investments pay off? Will we get the promotions we are hoping for? When faced with the unknown, most people experience some degree of anxiety and discomfort. Exactly how much ...

Researchers identify personality traits

April 3, 2009

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine's (BUSM) New England Centenarian Study have noted specific personality traits associated with healthy aging and longevity amongst the children of centenarians. The work ...

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.