Research from the
University of Southampton has shown that young adults, who are more outgoing or
more emotionally stable, are happier in later life than their more introverted
or less emotionally stable peers.
In the study,
published in the Journal of Research in Personality, Dr Catharine Gale from the
Medical Research Council's Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of
Southampton and a team from the University of Edinburgh and University College
London, examined the effects of neuroticism and extraversion at ages 16 and 26
years on mental wellbeing and life satisfaction at age 60 to 64 and 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.
Dr Gale, Reader
in Epidemiology, comments: "Few studies have examined the long-term
influence of personality traits in youth on happiness and life satisfaction
later in life. We found that extroversion in youth had direct, positive effects
on wellbeing and life satisfaction in later life. Neuroticism, in contrast, had
a negative impact, largely because it tends to make people more susceptible to
feelings of anxiety and depression and to physical health problems. "
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; they completed a short personality inventory at age 16, and again at age
assessed by questions about their sociability, energy, and activity
orientation. Neuroticism was assessed by questions about their emotional
stability, mood, and distractibility.
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 point to
a distinct pattern.
greater extroversion, 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 wellbeing, 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
Dr Gale adds:
"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. 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."