Public health significance of neuroticism

Am Psychol. May-Jun 2009;64(4):241-56. doi: 10.1037/a0015309.

Abstract

The personality trait of neuroticism refers to relatively stable tendencies to respond with negative emotions to threat, frustration, or loss. Individuals in the population vary markedly on this trait, ranging from frequent and intense emotional reactions to minor challenges to little emotional reaction even in the face of significant difficulties. Although not widely appreciated, there is growing evidence that neuroticism is a psychological trait of profound public health significance. Neuroticism is a robust correlate and predictor of many different mental and physical disorders, comorbidity among them, and the frequency of mental and general health service use. Indeed, neuroticism apparently is a predictor of the quality and longevity of our lives. Achieving a full understanding of the nature and origins of neuroticism, and the mechanisms through which neuroticism is linked to mental and physical disorders, should be a top priority for research. Knowing why neuroticism predicts such a wide variety of seemingly diverse outcomes should lead to improved understanding of commonalities among those outcomes and improved strategies for preventing them.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arousal
  • Character*
  • Comorbidity
  • Emotions
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Neurotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Prognosis
  • Public Health*
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology