- Several studies have found an association between personality, immune system biomarkers, and long-term health outcomes.
- The immune system-related biomarker interleukin 6 (IL-6) and the acute phase protein C-reactive protein (CRP) are an integral part of the immune response, playing both pro- and anti-inflammatory roles.
- Conscientiousness — a tendency to be responsible, organized, and capable of self-control — is one personality trait linked to a lower risk of mortality
- In a new study, researchers found that those with higher conscientiousness as a personality trait also had lower IL-6 levels and a reduced risk of death.
- This finding is significant because it establishes a biomarker as the direct link in a pathway between a personality trait and the risk of mortality.
Personality traits make up how a person navigates through life, with some characteristics having a more positive effect than others.
Conscientiousness, or the tendency to be organized, control impulses, and delay gratification, is one of the “Big Five” personality attributes included in the Five Factor Model.
This model defines human personality traits that help regulate emotions. The other traits that the Big Five includes are openness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Aside from their psychological impact on a person’s life, studies show that these traits are also associated with long-term health outcomes and mortality.
According to Dr. Páraic Ó Súilleabháin, of the Department of Psychology and the Health Research Institute at the University of Limerick: “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.”
Conscientiousness and longevity
Many studies link conscientiousness to beneficial health-related behaviors, including lower alcohol consumption, less smoking, healthier eating habits, and more physical activity.
Additionally, a meta-analysis found that those who scored the lowest in this trait had a risk of death that was 1.4 times higher than that of those who scored highly, even after adjusting for health behaviors, marital status, and education.
Another study found that conscientiousness is also linked to lower IL-6 levels circulating the body, which researchers have shown to be a contributing factor in long-term health outcomes and risk of premature mortality.
Although scientists understand that conscientiousness tends to promote longevity, it is unknown how this happens.