Individuals who gain strength in these traits over time often show comparable gains in their social well-being, and vice versa — those who gain in social well-being often take on these particular traits.
Social well-being is strongly associated with a person’s mental and physical health. It is defined as an individual’s connectedness to the larger community and the belief that he or she can contribute to society’s growth.
Those with a strong sense of social well-being are more likely to be civically engaged and are more likely to behave in a pro-social manner.
To describe a personality, psychologists often refer to the “Big Five” traits — extraversion, openness to experience, conscientiousness, agreeableness and neuroticism. Someone who scores high in extraversion, for example, is very outgoing, friendly and active.
Those who score high in conscientiousness are organized, responsible and hardworking. Although prior studies have shown that these traits tend to stabilize over time, evidence also has shown that they can change as a person ages.
For the study, University of Illinois psychology professor Dr. Brent Roberts and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Patrick Hill used data from the Mid-Life Development in the U.S. (MIDUS) study to see if the Big Five personality traits and social well-being of adults relate to each other over time.
“We all know people who we get along with well and the characteristics of those people,” Hill said.
“And the question is how that kind of social well-being, that kind of social connectedness, might coincide with those dispositional characteristics that are in the kinds of people that we like to seek out in the world.”
In the MIDUS study, participants answered survey questions to determine their personality traits and social well-being on two separate occasions about nine years apart.
An analysis of the responses revealed that adult social well-being is linked to personality over time.
“If you change the traits that help you in your social life, your social life also improves. Similarly, if you improve your social life, you’re going to see the benefits with respect to an improvement in your disposition,” Hill said.
Roberts believes that the application of these results can lead to benefits as people get older.
“This shows that social well-being and social structures are related to personality development, which is also related to thriving health,” he said. “So this is identifying a whole new pathway through which some of these mechanisms might actually help older people thrive.”
The study is published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Source: University of Illinois