Is it true that personality traits affect your overall health? And if I’m preternaturally stressed out, what does that mean for me? RAND S., PORTLAND, OR
Your personality can, and in fact does, affect your health, it turns out. People who are high in conscientiousness—that is, “neat, organized, and achievement-driven”—enjoy better physical health, says Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D., author of Generation Me and professor of psychology at San Diego State University. “It’s most likely because they have the self-control to eat right and make it to doctor’s appointments,” she says.
So what if that’s not you? Fortunately, you can increase your self-control by starting small. “Self-control is like a muscle,” she says. “It gets tired if you use it too much at one time but stronger the more you use it long-term.”
But if you’re always stressed out—well, you could be heading toward neuroticism, which, unfortunately, is linked to physical health problems and is a risk factor for depression. But there’s good news: “Through meditation, exercise, social interaction, a good diet, and other strategies, that stress can be managed,” Twenge says. “You’ll be healthier as a result.”