Here’s an interesting study published in the journal, “Brain, Behaviour and Immunity”. In a nutshell, they’ve found a relationship between personality traits of extraversion and the levels of an inflammatory chemical in the blood (Interleukin-6). The more extraverted, the lower the levels of this chemical. Why’s that a good thing? Well, the higher levels are indicative of increased inflammatory activity (in aging women the difference between high and low levels can result in a two fold increase in mortality over five years). Many serious chronic conditions are thought to result from increased inflammatory activity.
There’s a reassuring increase in studies of this type (in PNI – “Psychoneuroimmunology”) and they’re beginning to give us a better scientific understanding of the interconnectedness of all our body systems, and to break down the rather naive idea that the body and the mind are separate.
This particular study has hooked my attention because of its focus on extraversion. I suppose neither extraversion, nor intraversion, seem, on the face of it, to be healthy characteristics, so I was keen to understand exactly what the psychologists were interpreting as extraversion. Apparently Karl Jung described extraverts as focused on the world around them and happiest in the presence of others. Psychological models of character have come a long way since his day and this particular group of researchers worked with a model known as the “Five Factor Model” of personality. The five factors are –
- Emotional Stability
- Openness to Experience
Here’s one definition of extraversion
Extraversion is marked by pronounced engagement with the external world. Extraverts enjoy being with people, are full of energy, and often experience positive emotions. They tend to be enthusiastic, action-oriented, individuals who are likely to say “Yes!” or “Let’s go!” to opportunities for excitement. In groups they like to talk, assert themselves, and draw attention to themselves.
The particular element of extraversion associated with the lower inflammatory markers is “dispositional activity” – which the researchers are also dubbing “life force” (its the extent to which you wholeheartedly engage with life really)
I think that’s fascinating. As you know, my three key characteristics of health are adaptability, creativity and ENGAGEMENT, and my palette of factors for a good life includes a sense of wonder in the everyday (“emerviellement” in the “quotidien”)
I was intruiged to learn more about the Five Factor model. Wikipedia, as usual, has a good entry. But if you want to find out what the five factor analysis says about your own personality, try here where they have an excellent, free online, instrument.