Everyone has their own unique personality; some are outgoing and extroverted while others are more withdrawn and less emotional.
New research from the UK links happiness in later life with an outgoing and more emotionally stable demeanor in early adulthood.
Investigators from the University of Southampton, led by Catharine Gale, Ph.D., have published their research in the Journal of Research in Personality.
In the study, Gale’s team examined the effects of neuroticism and extraversion at ages 16 and 26 as compared with mental well-being and life satisfaction at age 60 to 64. Researchers then explored the mediating roles of psychological and physical health.
They found that personality dispositions by the time of early adulthood have an enduring influence on well-being decades later with extraversion associated with a desirable quality of life.
According to Gale: “Few studies have examined the long-term influence of personality traits in youth on happiness and life satisfaction later in life. We found that extraversion in youth had direct, positive effects on well-being and life satisfaction in later life.
For the study, investigators 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; and they completed a short personality inventory at age 16, and again at age 26.
Extraversion was assessed by questions about their sociability, energy and activity orientation. Neuroticism was assessed by questions about 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 pointed to a distinct pattern.
Specifically, greater extraversion, 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 well-being, 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.
“Understanding what determines how happy people feel in later life is of particular interest because there is good evidence that happier people tend to live longer,” Gale said.
“In this study we found that levels of neuroticism and extraversion measured over 40 years earlier were strongly predictive of well-being and life satisfaction in older men and women. Personality in youth appears to have an enduring influence on happiness decades later.”
Source: University of Southampton