A new research which has been published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology has suggested that extraverts, or extroverts, enjoy stronger immune systems much more than people who are introverts or self-conscious about nearly everything. Extraverts are persons who are very outgoing and more practical with social and physical realities than with inner thoughts and feelings – this class of people are more talkative, assertive, and enthusiastic; but an introvert shrinks from social contacts and tends to become preoccupied with his own inner thoughts and feelings – this set of people are shy, restrained, and more self-conscious.
Now, Professor Kavita Vedhara of the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham in the UK has led a research team to establish the fact that personality and natural dispositions influence health, and determines the strength or weakness of an individual’s immune system and functions.
The team ran a test on 121 adults comprising of 86 females and 35 males all aged between 18-59 years; and the participants were asked to complete a test that bordered on the five major dimensions of human personality – extraversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Taking their blood samples, microarray technology was used to determine the association between the personality divisions and the activity of genes within the white blood cells that work for immune responses. All contributory factors like smoking and drinking and exercises were ruled out so that these will not affect the outcome of the research with the participants.
Professor Vedhara later explained that “Individuals who we would expect to be exposed to more infections as a result of their socially orientated nature (i.e., extraverts) appear to have immune systems that we would expect can deal effectively with infection, while individuals who may be less exposed to infections because of their cautious/conscientious dispositions have immune systems that may respond less well.” The reason for this was because the results showed that extraverts scored higher on the immunity scale because they had an increased expression of pro-inflammatory genes in their white blood cells; but introverts that scored higher on conscientiousness had much reduced expressions of genes in their white blood cells.
Professor Vedhara requires that much research be conducted to determine how our biological mechanisms work in relation to particular personality traits and their functions. To this end, the lead researcher asks: “Is this our biology determining our psychology or our psychology determining our biology?”
Unrelated studies have shown that narcissistic men – men with inflated sense of self-importance – are prone to developing cardiovascular problems than others that do not have this trait; and quiet optimistic and easygoing attitudes influence how long most people live. This shows that there is possibly a link between the personality of people and how long they live vis-à-vis their immune system functions.