Chronic worrying, anxiety and tendency toward depression could be hazardous to one’s health, US researchers say.
In a 30-year study of nearly 1800 men, researchers from Purdue University in Indiana found that the personality traits associated with chronic worrying can lead to earlier death, partly because it could lead to unhealthy behaviors like smoking and drinking.
The researchers investigated the relationship between heavy drinking and smoking and the personality trait they call neuroticism. Anxious or depressed people – people with “high neuroticism” – are more likely to smoke and self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, the researchers said.
Smoking was found to account for 25 percent to 40 percent of the association between high neuroticism and earlier death while the remainder was attributed to biological and environmental factors, the study found.
“We found that having worrying tendencies or being the kind of person who stresses easily is likely to lead to bad behaviors like smoking and, therefore, raise the mortality rate,|” Daniel K. Mroczek, a professor of child development and family studies at Purdue and leader of the research team said in a press statement.
A better understanding of the link between personality traits and physical health can perhaps help clinicians improve intervention and prevention programs, according to Mroczek.
“It also may be possible to use personality traits to identify people who, because of their predispositions, are at risk for engaging in poor health behaviors such as smoking or excessive drinking,” he said.
The research is published in the August issue of Journal of Research in Personality.