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)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Schizophrenia drug development may be 'de-risked' with new research tool

November 22, 2017
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) have identified biomarkers that can aid in the development of better treatments for schizophrenia.

Study finds infection and schizophrenia symptom link

November 22, 2017
If a mother's immune system is activated by infection during pregnancy, it could result in critical cognitive deficits linked to schizophrenia in her offspring, a University of Otago study has revealed.

Self-harm, suicide attempts climb among US girls, study says

November 21, 2017
Attempted suicides, drug overdoses, cutting and other types of self-injury have increased substantially in U.S. girls, a 15-year study of emergency room visits found.

Car, stroller, juice: Babies understand when words are related

November 20, 2017
The meaning behind infants' screeches, squeals and wails may frustrate and confound sleep-deprived new parents. But at an age when babies cannot yet speak to us in words, they are already avid students of language.

Simple EKG can determine whether patient has depression or bipolar disorder

November 20, 2017
A groundbreaking Loyola Medicine study suggests that a simple 15-minute electrocardiogram could help a physician determine whether a patient has major depression or bipolar disorder.

Non-fearful social withdrawal linked positively to creativity

November 20, 2017
Everyone needs an occasional break from the social ramble, though spending too much time alone can be unhealthy and there is growing evidence that the psychosocial effects of too much solitude can last a lifetime.

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.