Dr. Michael Omidi discusses the results of a new study which links personality traits to the expression of a pro-inflammatory gene.
The type of person you are may reveal a lot about your health. Don’t be surprised if your doctor starts asking you questions about yourself. Do you like to party? How do you feel in large groups? Are you a risk taker? Answers to questions like these may help your doctor create a more comprehensive plan for your health.
A recent study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology involved 121 participants taking personality tests and having their blood tested for the expression of genes related to inflammation. It focused on 5 major human personality characteristics in order to understand their relationship with the immune system.
More social, better health?
The study was not designed to find disease-prone personalities, and did not find any. However, there was evidence to suggest a propensity for socializing was associated with having a more protective and proactive immune system.
The 5 traits measured in the test are extraversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Each characteristic was measured in degrees from one end to the other. The team also noted participants’ habits concerning exercise, drinking and smoking for control purposes.
Their results indicated extraversion was significantly associated with increased expression of pro-inflammatory genes and that ‘conscientiousness’ was associated with a reduced expression of those genes. It seems individuals who possess characteristics more likely to make them exposed to infections as a result of their extraversion have immune systems better equipped to deal with infections. Those who may be cautious and thus exposed to fewer infections tend to have immune systems that will respond less well.
What does this mean for me?
Researchers weren’t able to tell whether biology is determining our psychology or if our psychology is determining our biology. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. With additional research, we may learn more.
You may be able to tell a lot about your immune system from your personality. If doctors learn how to use this information well, it could change the way we are treated, both personally and medically.
The Omidi Brothers, Michael Omidi and Julian Omidi, are co-founders of several charities and proponents of human health.