Neurotic people are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease, while being extroverted seems to protect people from dying from respiratory illness, UK researchers report.
Neuroticism - a proclivity towards worry and emotional ups and downs - is related to anxiety and depression, which could help explain the relationship with heart trouble, note Beverly A. Shipley of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and colleagues in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
Reports on the health effects of both neuroticism and extroversion, which is the tendency to be friendly and outgoing - have been mixed, the researchers note. To clarify the relationship, Shipley and her team looked at mortality in 5 424 middle-aged adults who were followed for 21 years after they completed personality tests.
While an increasing degree of neuroticism was tied to an increased risk of death from any cause, the relationship disappeared after the researchers adjusted for other relevant factors such as body weight, alcohol use, social class and education.
Significant link found
Risk of death from cardiovascular disease also climbed as a person's level of neuroticism rose, and the relationship remained significant after statistical adjustment.
Extraversion reduced a person's likelihood of dying from respiratory disease, but had no other effects on mortality.
Based on the findings, the researchers conclude, the neuroticism-cardiovascular disease death link could be related to genes, but socioeconomic and behavioural factors are apt to be involved as well.
SOURCE: Psychosomatic Medicine, November-December 2007. – (Reuters Health)