Being a little high-strung might pay off ― at least when it comes to managing your health.
Neuroticism, the trait associated with having excessive anxiety, guilt and nervousness, may lower a person’s risk of dying early, according to a new study.
The research, published in the journal Psychological Science, found that those who score high for the personality type had a slightly reduced risk (about 8 percent) of death from all causes, especially cancer and cardiovascular disease, compared to those who had lower levels of the characteristic.
Researchers examined data from more than 300,000 people in the United Kingdom from ages 37 to 73. Participants took a personality test, which measured their levels of neuroticism, as well as answered questions about their lifestyle habits and health metrics, like body-mass index and blood pressure. They were also asked to rate how healthy they felt. The study volunteers were monitored for approximately six years.
After following up, researchers compared the data sets and discovered that higher levels of neuroticism was associated with a higher risk of death overall. (And it makes sense: Previous research shows neuroticism is linked to negative emotions and mental health issues.)
But, when the researchers examined the participants’ answers for how healthy they felt, they noticed a different outcome. Of the participants who self-reported being in poor health, high neuroticism had a small protective effect against dying prematurely, lead study author Catharine Gale told Time.
Although they didn’t study or test for this in the experiment, researchers think neurotic people who believed themselves to be in poor health might go to the doctor more often, fueled by the excessive worry that is often part of the trait.
“This propensity to seek medical help in response to worries about health could plausibly result in earlier identification of cancer, and greater likelihood of survival,” the authors wrote.
But those with the trait should still take caution when it comes to overly stressing: Being neurotic is still associated with a bunch of risks, from a greater chance of having emotional health issues to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in women and a higher risk for substance abuse.
Of course, it’s not all bad: In addition to potentially living longer, previous research shows people who score high for neuroticism have some health benefits ― and may also perform better at work. Silver linings, right?
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Deputy Healthy Living Editor, HuffPost