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Is Your Personality Healthy?

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A new study helps define what a healthy personality looks like.

Am I normal? Do I have a good personality? We’ve all wondered these things. A new study from the University of California, Davis, presents insights in what the most psychologically healthy personality traits are. To create the theory, researchers used what’s called the “Big Five” personality traits, based on years of psychological models, so let’s take a quick look at those:

  1. Neuroticism. This sounds bad, but is really examining how quickly you bounce back from stress. Are you anxious a lot? Do you get worried easily? Or are you a relaxed person who deals easily with stress?
  2. Extraversion. Extraverts draw energy from being around other people, while introverts need to recharge their batteries away from other humans.
  3. Openness to New Experiences. Do you enjoy challenges and trying new things? Or do you prefer things to stay as they are? People who are high on the openness trait tend to be good at abstract thinking.
  4. Agreeableness. An umbrella for prosocial behaviors, this category covers things like how empathetic someone is; how much they are willing to manipulate others; and how much interest they take in other people.
  5. Conscientiousness. You are high on this trait if you like to plan ahead, have a set schedule and be prepared. Procrastinators are on the other end of this spectrum.  

For the study, the scientists first consulted with psychological experts on what a prototypical healthy individual might look like. To do this, they used previous research on the Big Five personality traits, and how they interplay to predict positive life outcome on health, work performance, marital quality and other life successes. Next, they had 3,000 people do a personality profile, and compared it to this prototype. As predicted, the people who were most closely matched with the healthy personality traits scored higher in levels of self-esteem, optimism and clarity.

What traits seemed to make them healthy?

  • Better able to resist impulses
  • Better able to regulate their attention
  • Low in antisocial behavior
  • Low in aggressive behavior
  • Lower in aspects of narcissism such as exploitation of others
  • Higher in areas related to self-sufficiency
  • Higher on stress immunity and boldness.

The study’s results “have practical implications for the assessment of and research on health personality functioning as well as deeper implications for theories about psychological adaption and functioning,” wrote the study’s lead author, Wiebke Bleidorn, associate professor of psychology at UC Davis. 


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Savannah. She is the author of Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!.


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