Can someone’s personality have an effect on their overall health and longevity? It seems that the answer is “yes”, since a connection between being an extrovert and having low levels of interleukin 6, an inflammatory chemical, has been discovered.
…extraversion is a personality trait with three parts: a tendency toward happy thoughts, a desire to be around others and “dispositional energy,” a sense of innate vigor or active engagement with life (“I’m bursting with energy; my life is fast-paced”).
While the first two extrovert qualities were not found to track with inflammation, the current study found increases in “dispositional activity” came with statistically significant decreases in IL-6 (p = .001). P values measure the weight that should be attributed to a finding, with values less than .05 usually deemed significant.
On average, women and minorities have higher levels than white males. Chemicals such as interleukin 6 increase in concentration as result of stress. Long term exposure to various sources of stress takes a toll on an individual’s organs and can result in poor health and early death.
“If this aspect of personality drives inflammation, dispositional energy and engagement with life may confer a survival advantage,” Chapman said. “But we don’t know if low dispositional activity is causing inflammation, or inflammation is taking its toll on people by reducing these personality tendencies, so we must be cautious in our interpretation of this association.”
A cynic may look at all the data and simply conclude that an extroverted personality is one which participates in the world, meaning, someone who likely getting plenty of exercise and doing physical activity. There is a strong connection between proper exercise and longer, healthier life, so everyone could gain these benefits by getting fit.
“Beyond physical activity, some people seem to have this innate energy separate from exercise that makes them intrinsically involved in life,” Chapman said. “It will be fascinating to investigate how we can increase this disposition toward engagement.
Of course, there’s probably more to it.