People with more stable emotions have stronger immune systems, research finds.
People who are emotionally stable usually find it easier to control their urges and are mostly unselfconscious.
Emotional stability is linked to being better at dealing with stress and minor frustrations.
Neuroticism lies at the opposite end of the spectrum from emotional stability.
People who are neurotic typically experience more negative thinking and tend to have worse mental health.
The study included 84 people whose response to a vaccine for hepatitis B was tested.
The results showed that people who were more neurotic — meaning easily stressed, nervous and moody — tended to have weaker immune system responses.
Those who were more emotional stable had a stronger immune response.
Dr Anna L. Marsland,, the study’s first author, said:
“The present findings support a link between trait negative affect and an objective health measure — antibody response to vaccination — raising the possibility that individuals high in trait negative affect or neuroticism may have less protective immune responses.”
In a second part of the study, people were given a stressful task to test their immune function.
The results showed that stress tended to lower people’s immune system response — as previous studies have found.
Along with emotional stability, extraversion has also been linked to a stronger immune system, by a genetic analysis.
Extraverts are typically outgoing, talkative and energetic, meaning they tend to interact with more people.
They are, therefore, exposed to more infections.
A stronger immune response may help to protect extraverts against infectious diseases.
Introverts, meanwhile, tend to have a weaker immune response, as do cautious people.
The study included 121 people who were given personality questionnaires, along with genetic tests and general health screening.
The results showed that extraverts had the highest expression of pro-inflammatory genes.
The effect of these genes is to help fight off infections.
Introverts and cautious conscientious people tended to have a lower inflammatory response.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Health Psychology (Marsland et al., 2001).