Research from West Virginia University and Midlife Development in the United States suggests an individual’s personality traits are associated with the wear and tear their bodies experience across adulthood.

Approximately 900 adults from across the country between the ages of 34 and 84 reported to a clinical research center and answered questions about their health, medication use and personality traits. The personality traits, commonly known as the Big 5, are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. These traits represent the basic patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions that make individuals alike, yet different.

The traits, researchers say, are strongly associated with several aspects of both subjective and objective health and well-being. Specifically, conscientious persons — those that are thorough, goal-oriented, and responsible in many aspects of their life — seem to have better physical health.

Findings suggest that an individual’s personality can influence how their bodies react to stress and disease.

“Being more conscientious on a day to day basis, such as being more organized, responsible and planning your daily schedule might not only help you lead a more successful life in the short term, but long term it may result in better physiological health,” said Nicholas Turiano, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at WVU and member of the Tobacco Research Initiative for the WV Prevention Research Center.

Clinic staff also measured 24 different aspects of physiological health such as blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, circulating stress hormone levels and immune function. Higher levels of those physiological measurements suggest an increased wear and tear the body experiences from both environmental and psychological stressors ranging from sickness and disease to prolonged periods of psychological stress.

Researchers found that participants scoring higher on conscientiousness had lower levels of wear and tear on their body. These goal-oriented individuals had better function in several physiological systems including cholesterol and glucose levels, and healthier heart rate function.

For more information, contact Nicholas A. Turiano at NATuriano@mail.wvu.edu.