Nervous energy? A new study suggests neurotics may be healthier than average if they are also conscientious
Neurotics are often told they will worry themselves into an early grave, but they may have the last laugh after all after scientists found the character trait could be good for your health.
Researchers made the surprising discovery while conducting research into how personality traits may influence underlying biology and predict harmful conditions.
Neuroticism is usually marked by being moody, nervous, and a worrier, and has been linked to hostility, depression, and excessive drinking and smoking.
Researchers had therefore assumed that neurotics would display the highest levels of a biomarker for inflammation and chronic disease, but they were surprised to find they displayed the lowest levels.
Study leader Dr Nicholas Turiano, from the University of Rochester Medical Center, said the result suggested there are a large number of people who are both neurotic and conscientious.
He said: 'These people are likely to weigh the consequences of their actions, and therefore their level of neuroticism coupled with conscientiousness probably stops them from engaging in risky behaviors.'
Turiano and co-authors tapped into the National Survey of Midlife Development in the U.S. (MIDUS) database, a sampling of just over 1,000 adults.
Participants took part in a full clinic-based health evaluation, including tests for disease-related biomarkers, physiological function, and personality traits.
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The biomarker Interleukin 6, an important immune protein, provides an accurate assessment of conditions linked to inflammation such as heart disease, stroke, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, and some cancers.
Researchers found 441 individuals scored highly on neuroticism and conscientiousness. They found that the higher a person scored in both personality traits, the lower their levels of IL-6. This group also had lower body-mass index scores and fewer diagnosed chronic health conditions.
'Speculation is that healthy neurotics may be hyper-vigilant about their lifestyle and about seeking treatment when a problem arises,' Turiano said.
'It’s their conscientiousness that guides their decisions to prevent disease or quickly get treatment when they don’t feel well.'
The term 'healthy neuroticism' was coined in 2000 when other researchers first described how conscientiousness may provide the dose of self-discipline that reduces unhealthy neurotic behaviors like overeating, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol. In contrast, a neurotic person who scores low in conscientiousness may not have healthy avenues to deal with stress, the paper said.
Dr Turiano said more research is needed before scientists can draw firm conclusions from the study published in the online Journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
'Future studies will try to figure out who are the healthy neurotics and why they are healthier,' he said.
'Eventually, the clinical application might allow us to identify patients at high risk for chronic inflammation, and therefore have an increased risk of health problems and death.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2233295/I-told-I-ill-Being-neurotic-GOOD-health-all.html#ixzz2CKDIILIx
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