Research — 13 December 2017

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Individuals who are both highly extroverted and conscientious may be protected against depression and anxiety, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo have found that examining unique combinations of personality traits could help prevent or predict poor mental health.

“We know individually how these traits relate to symptoms, but now we are beginning to understand how the traits might impact one another,” explains Kristin Naragon-Gainey, a lead author of the study, which was published in the Journal of Research in Personality.

“We have to consider the whole person in order to understand the likelihood of developing negative symptoms down the road,” she added.

Conscientiousness and extroversion are two of the “Big Five” personality traits, the other three being openness to experience, agreeableness and neuroticism – which is known for putting people at high risk for depression and anxiety.

Psychologists claim that most people identify on each of the five to some extent.

Typically, a person who is highly extroverted is very sociable and always surrounds themselves with people.

Meanwhile, a very conscientious person tends to express high levels of self-discipline and favours making detailed plans over spontaneity.

When the two are combined with neuroticism, when someone is more susceptible to experiencing negative emotions, that person is less likely to develop mood disorders, the study claims.

Researchers interviewed 463 participants, each of whom had received some form of psychiatric treatment in the past two years.

Surveys revealed the extent at which these patients identified on the continuums of neuroticism, conscientiousness and extroversion.

They concluded that those who exhibited high levels of all three were better equipped to engage in meaningful social interactions and find them rewarding, hence why they are at a lower risk of mood disorders.

“If someone has high levels of extraversion they might be very good at gathering social support or increasing their positive affectivity through social means,” explains Naragon-Gainey.

“Similarly, conscientiousness has a lot to do with striving toward goals and putting plans in action, which can combat the withdrawal and avoidance that can go along with neuroticism.”

This piece by Olivia Petter was first seen on the ‘Independent’ 1 December 2017.

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