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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Personality, well-being, and health.

  • Author(s): Friedman, Howard S
  • Kern, Margaret L
  • et al.

A lifespan perspective on personality and health uncovers new causal pathways and provides a deeper, more nuanced approach to interventions. It is unproven that happiness is a direct cause of good health or that negative emotion, worry, and depression are significant direct causes of disease. Instead, depression-related characteristics are likely often reflective of an already-deteriorating trajectory. It is also unproven that challenging work in a demanding environment usually brings long-term health risks; on the contrary, individual strivings for accomplishment and persistent dedication to one's career or community often are associated with sizeable health benefits. Overall, a substantial body of recent research reveals that conscientiousness plays a very significant role in health, with implications across the lifespan. Much more caution is warranted before policy makers offer narrow health recommendations based on short-term or correlational findings. Attention should be shifted to individual trajectories and pathways to health and well-being.

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