The Personality Trait Linked To A Stronger Immune System

People with this personality trait live an average of two to four years longer.

People with this personality trait live an average of two to four years longer.

People who are conscientious have stronger immune systems and live the longest lives, research finds.

Conscientious people tend to be self-disciplined and they aim for achievement.

Highly conscientious people live an average of two to four years longer.

They are also less likely to smoke or drink and experience lower levels of stress.

Two aspects of conscientiousness have the strongest link to a long life:

  • a preference for order,
  • and an orientation towards achievement.

Now, a new study finds that the link is at least partly explained by the immune system.

People higher in conscientiousness have lower levels of a biological marker called interleukin-6, which is linked to inflammation in the body.

Dr Páraic Ó Súilleabháin, the study’s first author, said:

“Our personality is critically important throughout our lives, from early stages in our development, to the accumulation of the impact of how we think, feel, and behave across our lives, and in the years preceding our death.

It is also becoming increasingly apparent how important personality actually is for our long-term health and resulting longevity.

For instance, it has been shown that people scoring lower on the personality trait of conscientiousness (a tendency to be responsible, organized, and capable of self-control) can be at a 40% increased risk of future death compared to their higher scoring counterparts.

What is not clear is how this could happen, and importantly, what biological pathway might be responsible for this link.”

The study included 957 adults who were tracked over 14 years.

Dr Ó Súilleabháin explained the results:

“We found that part of the reason why people who score higher on the personality trait of conscientiousness live longer is as a result of their immune system, specifically due to lower levels of a biological marker called interleukin-6.

There are likely further biological mechanisms that are yet to be discovered which will give a clearer picture of all the different ways that our personalities are so critical to our long-term health.”

Other personality traits linked to a stronger immune system include extraversion and being emotionally stable.

→ Read on: How to change your personality.

The study was published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (O’Súilleabháin et al., 2021).

Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

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.

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