Personality change greatly affects wellbeing

Compared with external factors, such as a pay rise, getting married or finding employment, personality change contributes much more to improvements in our personal wellbeing

Believe it or not, people are happier with small positive changes in their personality than they are with getting employed, earning more money or getting married, finds a new study.

The study, by psychologists from The University of Manchester and London School of Economics and Political Science [LSE], was published in the journal Social Indicators Research.

Lead author Dr Chris Boyce, from the University of Manchester's School of Psychological Sciences, said: "We found that our personalities can and do change over time—something that was considered improbable until now—and that these changes are strongly related to changes in our wellbeing.

"Compared with external factors, such as a pay rise, getting married or finding employment, personality change is just as likely and contributes much more to improvements in our personal wellbeing."

Previous studies have shown that personality accounts for up to 35 per cent of individual differences in life satisfaction, compared to just 4 per cent for income, 4 per cent for employment status and between 1 – 4 per cent for marital status.

Dr Boyce, with Manchester colleague Dr Alex Wood and the LSE's Dr Nick Powdthavee, used a large data set of 7,500 individuals from Australia who had answered questions on their life satisfaction and personality at two time points four years apart.

Personality was measured using a well-validated personality questionnaire assessing five broad dimensions which cover the breadth of a person's personality: openness-to-experiences, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. The researchers then looked at the extent to which personality changed and how these changes related to life satisfaction.

Dr Boyce added: "Our research suggests that by focusing on who we are and how we relate to the world around us has the potential to unlock vast improvements in our wellbeing. "

Eurekalert!

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