Personality is known to be associated with long-term risk of death , a well-replicated finding observed in numerous studies.
However, a new international study led by the University of Limerick in Ireland and published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity suggests that the immune system plays a previously unknown role in the link between personality traits and risk of long-term death.
People who score lower on the personality trait of awareness (a tendency to be responsible, organized, and capable of self-control) may be at a 40% higher risk of future death compared to their higher-scoring counterparts. But what is the biological pathway for this link?
The study was based on data from the Midlife in the United States longitudinal study of 957 adults who were examined over a 14-year period .
The researchers wanted to see if two biological markers that are critical to the immune system can explain why personality traits are associated with long-term mortality risk. Specifically, they wanted to test whether interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein, which are known to play a role in age-related morbidity, were involved.
The key seems to lie in the lower levels of interleukin-6 . There are likely other biological mechanisms that have yet to be discovered that will give a clearer picture of all the different ways that our personalities are so critical to our long-term health.