Study finds this personality trait is linked to an earlier death

2 May 2018

Image: Tasha Cherkasova/Shutterstock

Those who are categorised as being neurotic might want to listen to new findings on its link with an earlier death.

Describing someone as neurotic is often interpreted as a slur against someone’s character, but the term is also used professionally to describe a personality disorder whereby someone is more likely to experience feelings such as anxiety, anger, jealousy and loneliness.

Now, an international study conducted by psychologists at NUI Galway has found that those who are categorised as being neurotic are substantially more likely to die younger than those who aren’t.

The paper published to the Journal of Psychosomatic Research based its findings on data collected by The Berlin Aging Study, carried out between 1990 and 2009 among 417 people aged between 70 and 100 years old.

Psychological and biological

This new research looked at the detailed data captured from these individuals and found that the personality trait of neuroticism predicted an earlier death over a 19-year follow-up period.

The study found that neuroticism impacted the effects of a person’s ability to perform activities of daily living in old age as well as there being a biological marker – the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) – on death.

Being able to carry out daily activities is a key marker for the deterioration of health in old age, while ACE is a critical enzyme in a variety of diseases, most notably cardiovascular disease.

‘Critical for future research’

“Existing data suggests that by the year 2020, one in five Europeans will be over the age of 65 years,” said Dr Páraic Ó Súilleabháin of the research group.

“It is critical for future research to address the impact of neuroticism on the deterioration of health in old age, with a particular emphasis on its effects on cardiovascular disease. This study provides exciting opportunities and research avenues for future work in this area.”

This isn’t the only recent research to examine such personality traits, with a study conducted by Queensland University of Technology claiming that being high in neuroticism and low in conscientiousness can come at a cost in terms of income.

These effects were particularly strong for women, who benefited more than men for being conscientious but were penalised more than men for being neurotic.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic