Outgoing and emotionally stable young adults tend to enjoy greater happiness and health later in life than their more introvert counterparts, a news study has revealed.
Researchers at University of Southampton examined the effects of neuroticism and extraversion at ages 16 and 26 years on mental wellbeing and life satisfaction at age 60 to 64 and explored the mediating roles of psychological and physical health.
Dr Catharine Gale from the Medical Research Council's Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton and a team from the University of Edinburgh and University College London found that personality dispositions by the time of early adulthood have an enduring influence on well-being decades later.
The study examined data on 4,583 people who are members of the National Survey for Health and Development, conducted by the Medical Research Council. All were born in 1946; they completed a short personality inventory at age 16, and again at age 26.
Extroversion was assessed by questions about their sociability, energy, and activity orientation. Neuroticism was assessed by questions about their emotional stability, mood, and distractibility.
Decades later, when the participants were 60 to 64-years-old, 2,529 of them answered a series of questions measuring well-being and their level of satisfaction with life. They also reported on their mental and physical health. Their answers point to a distinct pattern.
Specifically, greater extroversion, as assessed in young adulthood, was directly associated with higher scores for well-being and for satisfaction with life.
Neuroticism, in contrast, predicted poorer levels of wellbeing, but it did so indirectly. People higher in neuroticism as young adults were more susceptible to psychological distress later in life and to a lesser extent, poorer physical health.
The study was published in the Journal of Research in Personality.