If you love bungee jumping or have a cheery disposition, could this have something to do with the health issues you may face?
The latest US research shows your personality could mean the difference between an early death and a long healthy life.
“Recognising your own personality traits could be the first step towards taking action and limiting potential long-term health risks associated with them,” says Professor Craig Jackson, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology at Birmingham City University.
So what does your personality say about your body?
While a low boredom threshold has been linked with problems including gambling, alcoholism and drug abuse, novelty seeking could actually keep you healthy and happy, says US research from Washington State University in Ohio.
Study author Dr Robert Cloninger says if a sense of curiosity is combined with persistence and a sentiment that it’s “not all about you”, subjects studied reported the best health, most friends, fewest emotional problems and greatest satisfaction with life.
“These ‘scanners’ are always looking at the horizon for new things, constantly trying out new hobbies with an open-mindedness for stimulation,” he says. “In turn, this helps them move on emotionally and stay positive, which has a direct translation into physical wellbeing.”
Having a positive outlook might not just mean seeing the glass as half full – you’re likely to be overflowing in other areas, says a Japanese study.
Researchers from Doshisha University in Kyoto assessed obese men and women undergoing a six-month weight-loss programme.
Those who were most positive lost the least weight, they found. It’s thought that looking on the bright side led to patients not caring about their weight and happily giving into temptation.
Meanwhile, another study at Stanford University, US, found that the most cheerful children grew up to smoke, drink more and have riskier hobbies.
Those with uneasy temperaments are five times more likely to develop stomach ulcers, French and Canadian researchers found.
Dependent, emotionally unstable types may be more likely to smoke and drink, have irregular eating habits and sleep problems, which all lead to higher than normal stomach acid levels, triggering the ulcers.
High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can also trigger headaches, acne and bladder infections. And anxious people have more sex – or sexual partners, at least – according to a Sheffield University study.
Study author Dr Virpi Lummaa says women who are highly neurotic tend to have more short-term sexual partners because of their fear of not finding the right person or failing to reproduce.
Men showing a more delicate, compassionate side have lower stress levels and are less likely to have heart attacks, Glasgow University research shows. In the study, men were given a ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ score based on traits like leadership ability, forcefulness, aggression and risk-taking for the former; sympathy, affection and compassion to the needs of others for the latter.
Researchers found being in touch with feelings meant they were more able to talk about emotions and get help – including going to see
Greek studies of women attending breast-screening centres found hostile types were more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Another US study of men with colon cancer found the same increased risk – suggesting that hostility and anger dampens the effectiveness of the immune system, possibly making it more susceptible to disease.
Being angry also brings a 50% increase in the chance of poor heart health, say researchers at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
Angry people respond more quickly and strongly to stress, mentally and physiologically, increasing blood pressure and heart rate, causing more wear and tear to the cardiovascular system.
Extrovert men are less likely to get heart disease, according to a Milan University study. They are also less prone to infections and more likely to recover from disease.
Extroverts are better at coping with what life throws at them, the researchers suggest. And if they think they have a medical problem, they’re likely to speak up.
Shy types are 50 per cent more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, a 30-year study found.
The researchers from Chicago believe this may be because wallflowers lead more sheltered lives and can find new situations
They are also more vulnerable to viral infections, such as the common cold, whatever time of year it may be, according to research from the University of California, with stress once again playing a key role.
Honesty does pay, at least in the health stakes.
The universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow found conscientious people are less likely to develop everything from diabetes to hernia, bone problems, sciatica, stroke and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Looking at more than 190 studies, they found honest types consistently carry out more health-promoting behaviours, such as exercising and eating a healthy diet.
Acts of generosity don’t just lead to emotional satisfaction – they actually promote physical health and healing, research shows.
One US study found that patients with chronic pain coped better when they counselled other pain patients, experiencing less depression, intense pain and disability.
Another Californian study showed that elderly people who volunteered for more than four hours a week were 44% less likely to die during the study period.
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