How Your Personality Traits Affect Your Health

Your personality affects more than your state of mind: It may even put you at risk for (or protect you from) health problems.

Posted on

Growing evidence shows that your personality can impact your health. Find out if your traits might be affecting your body:

From This Episode:

The Secret World of Squashers

Personality Type: Impulsive
Do you have trouble waiting for anything and find yourself making decisions, both big and little, before you've thought them through? You may have an impulsive personality. People with this personality trait may also have trouble finishing projects, feel fidgety and frequently frustrated and may gravitate towards risky behaviors like gambling or speeding.

If you're impulsive, you may be at increased risk of peptic ulcer disease. One study of hospital workers found that employees who tended towards impulsivity were about more than two times as likely to be diagnosed with ulcers within two years, even when other factors like age, gender and smoking were controlled for. Researchers think that impulsive types may actually have higher amounts of stomach acid, which may contribute to ulcer formation.

Personality Type: Optimistic
If you're able to put a positive spin on even minor problems, optimism may play a central role in your personality. Optimists expect the best outcome to result from a given situation and are willing to take on risks and responsibilities because they aren't overwhelmed by fear of the worst case scenario.

Optimism is great for your heart. A study of 1,306 men showed that optimists were about half as likely as pessimists to develop heart disease over a 10 year period, even when other risk factors are accounted for.

Personality Type: Eager to Please
Those who are eager to please are accommodating, passive and tend to conform to what others want. Though they may be nurturing to others, they have a harder time taking care of themselves.

Eager-to-please types may be less likely to be proactive, set up doctors' appointments and follow through with preventative care. They may tend to feel powerless over things that happen to them (including diseases). Studies show that people who are primary caregivers for sick or weak relatives are at higher risk for depression and anxiety.

Personality Type: Shy
If you prefer to hover in the background, and don't like to speak up or assert yourself, you may have a shy personality. Shy people tend to feel uncomfortable around others or in large groups and may prefer to be more self-reliant.

Research suggests that shyness may impact immune system function and may also be associated with increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the "fight or flight" response in dangerous or stressful situations. Shy people may be at increased risk of coming down with viral infections, including the common cold.

Personality Type: Neurotic
If you are emotionally reactive and prone to stress, you may have a neurotic personality type. In this case, you may be more likely to interpret normal situations as being threatening, and minor problems may loom larger than they really are.

Neurotic types may be at increased risk of coronary heart disease. Studies show that increased stress in life is associated with increased incidence of heart attacks and sudden death. One study showed that people who had had a heart attack were more likely to report significant stress at work and at home, financial stress and major life events in the prior year.

Personality Type: Conscientious
If you're conscientious, you're likely to be orderly, prudent, cautious, persistent and responsible. You pay attention to details and tend to be well organized.

The more fastidious you are, the more likely you are to remember what screenings you need and when to show up for your health appointments. Plus, you may be more likely to avoid dangerous situations.  These may be reasons why a study that followed people for eight decades found that conscientiousness was the leading predictor of longevity.