Personality and Physical Health

Personality and Physical Health

Did you know that your personality can have a big effect on your physical health? Did you know that your physical health can also have an effect on your personality? Today I’m going to tell you about some of the amazing links between your personality and your physical health.

A common model for personality is to split it into the ‘Big 5’ traits: conscientiousness, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and neuroticism (and, if you’d like to see which of these traits you have, I’ll give you a link to my personality quiz at the end of this video). Let’s go through each one and talk about how it’s linked to your physical health.

Conscientiousness

Individuals with a high level of conscientiousness are dutiful, organized, and high in self-control. A high level of conscientiousness has a great impact on your health.

Having a high level of self-control helps you avoid things which you know are bad for you, such as unhealthy foods or drugs. A high level of conscientiousness is linked to eating healthier foods, being less likely to smoke or use drugs, and living longer. Conscientiousness is a fantastic long-term predictor of health and of living a long life.

Extraversion

Extraversion is characterized by a high level of energy, enthusiasm, and assertiveness. People with a high level of extraversion can go as far as to be labeled as having a “Type T” personality, or the “thrill-seeking personality”.

Individuals seeking thrill are more likely to smoke, use drugs, and binge drink. These things are all linked to lower life expectancy. Type T thrill-seeking is also linked to being more likely to suddenly die in accidents.

Openness to experience

Individuals with a high level of openness to experience are curious and creative. These people are interested in new ideas and often seek out activities that can bring new meaning to their lives.

A high level of openness to experience has mixed results when it comes to your health, although some studies have found that a high level of creativity is linked to living longer.

Agreeableness

Agreeableness is characterized by being pleasant and friendly to other people. People with a high level of agreeableness tend to have fewer conflicts in their relationships than those with a low level of it.

Mixed results have been found in how a person’s level of agreeableness affects their physical health, although there have been findings that agreeableness is linked to a longer life for women.

Agreeableness also usually leads to having a great support system of other people behind you, and having access to this network can improve your mental health, make you happier, and give you people to fall back on when you’re sick or in trouble.

A low level of agreeableness can lead to pushing others away, which can create a poor social situation for you. Poor social situations have been found to be just as risky for heart troubles as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Neuroticism

Neuroticism is characterized by anxiety, hostility, and negative emotions. People with a high level of neuroticism are at high risk for depression.

People with a high level of neuroticism can even be said to have a “Type D” personality, or the “distressed personality”, which is a branch off of the “Type A” personality, or the “assertive personality”.

Although there are no alarming links between the Type A personality and heart problems, the link between heart problems and the Type D personality is not so easy to dismiss. A personality study conducted on almost 300 people in a cardiac rehabilitation program found that 27% of patients with a Type D personality died in the next 10 years, compared to 6% of all other personalities. Another study involving 875 patients undergoing coronary heart surgery found that Type D’s were 4x more likely to have a heart attack or die within the following 9 months than any of the others.

So why does this happen? People with a “Type D” personality often have chronic anger and hostility, which is very damaging to their cardiovascular health. Also, people who fall into a sour mood after a heart attack tend to fare worse than those that don’t. Chronic mental strain, such as family burdens, work trouble, or financial issues, can also strain the heart.

A high level of neuroticism is also linked to headaches, stomach problems, and being prone to rumination (which is the practice of letting stressful thoughts run through your mind over and over). Neurotics often have problems that worsen their mental health, which can lead to physical health problems, too.

So we’ve established that your personality traits have an effect on both your physical health and how you take care of your body, but does this work the other way around? Does your physical health have an effect on your personality?

A lot of research has been conducted in this area. In particular, one psychologist and physician, William H. Sheldon, tried to predict people’s personalities based on their body type. To measure body type, Sheldon measured people based on three sections of their body: their endoderm, which is their innermost layer that includes their stomach, intestines, heart, lungs, and other internal organs, their mesoderm, which is their middle layer of muscles and bones, and their ectoderm, which is their outer layer including skin, hair, and their nervous system.

Sheldon gave people three numbers on a 1-7 scale measuring the size of these three components, with the number 4 being average in size, 1 being extremely below average, and 7 being extremely above average. For example, if your numbers were “6-1-4”, you would be high in endomorphy, low in mesomorphy, and average in ectomorphy. Sheldon gave his subjects a measurement based on these numbers and then went on to measure their personality traits to see if there were any correlations.

Sheldon found that there were indeed connections, but only with someone on an extreme end of the spectrum. An extreme endomorph (7-1-1), or someone overweight and looking similar to Santa Claus or Homer Simpson with their gut as their most predominant feature, was found to be relaxed, easy-going, tolerant, and even-tempered, with strong needs for love, comfort, food, people, and affection. An extreme mesomorph (1-7-1), or someone looking similar to a football player or the Hulk, with their muscles and bones being their most predominant features, were found to be adventuresome, thrill-seeking, aggressive, dominant, noisy, and courageous. Finally, an extreme ectomorph (1-1-7), looking very tall and thin like Barbie or Olive Oyl from Popeye, noted by a greater ratio of skin to the rest of their body than most other people, was found to be restrained, inhibited, self-conscious, afraid of people, and preferring solitude.

However, when it came to someone who was not on an extreme end of the body type spectrum (which would include most people), Sheldon determined that he was not able to predict their personality based on their body type alone.

Although Sheldon wouldn’t be able to predict your personality if your body type isn’t on an extreme end of the spectrum, your body type still does have an effect on your personality. For example, some studies have found that your body type affects how other people will act towards you, which in turn will affect how you behave.

When it comes to your body type and your personality, both can have a massive effect on the other. If you’d like to learn more about yourself, how you think, and why you act the way that you do, I suggest you take a look at my personality quiz… link in the description. If you take my quick and free quiz, you will receive a personalized list of your personality traits, which you use your help yourself understand how the information I’ve given you in this video affects you in particular!

References: 

"LOL Your body and Your Personality." 18 Apr. 1984, http://virgil.azwestern.edu/~dag/lol/Somatotypes.html. Accessed 24 Feb. 2019.

"Openness to Experience and Health: A Review of the Literature ...." http://www.academia.edu/4621907/Openness_to_Experience_and_Health_A_Review_of_the_Literature. Accessed 17 Feb. 2019.

"Questions & Answers: What is Type D personality? - Harvard Health." 9 Mar. 2014, https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Questions_andamp_Answers_What_is_Type_D_personality. Accessed 17 Feb. 2019.

"Type T Personality and the Jungian Classification System | Richard E ...." https://www.academia.edu/5228147/Type_T_Personality_and_the_Jungian_Classification_System. Accessed 17 Feb. 2019.

About the author 

Theodore

Theodore created PracticalPsychology while in college and has transformed the educational online space of psychology. His goal is to help people improve their lives by understanding how their brains work. 1,700,000 Youtube subscribers and a growing team of psychologists, the dream continues strong!

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