Personality may not only dictate if you’d be a contender for Mr. or Miss Congeniality, but may also play a significant role in how the brain makes choices that affect your health.
In a study that spanned more than 40 years, researchers found that changeable personality characteristics may be an important determining factor affecting a person’s health, in addition to genetic and environmental factors.
In the 1960s, more than 2,000 elementary-school students in Hawaii received personality assessments. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Aging, researchers were able to complete medical and psychological examinations for 60 percent of the original group who, as adults, agreed to further studies starting in 1998.
Colleagues found that children lower in conscientiousness — traits including being irresponsible and careless — had worse health 40 years later, including greater obesity and higher cholesterol. The study builds on past work showing that more conscientious children live longer.
“Personality develops in childhood and is probably most malleable in childhood,” said Sarah Hampson of the Oregon Research Institute. “Parents and schools shape personality, and this is our opportunity to support the development of conscientiousness — planfulness, ability to delay gratification, [and] self-control.”
This information was shared at a recent annual meeting of The Society for Personality and Social Psychology and was part of a larger collection of work on understanding personality for decision-making, longevity and mental health.