Is Healthy Neuroticism Associated with Longevity? A Coordinated Integrative Data Analysis

Collabra Psychol. 2020;6(1):33. doi: 10.1525/collabra.268. Epub 2020 Jul 21.


Individual differences in the Big Five personality traits have emerged as predictors of health and longevity. Although there are robust protective effects for higher levels of conscientiousness, results are mixed for other personality traits. In particular, higher levels of neuroticism have significantly predicted an increased risk of mortality, no-risk at all, and even a reduced risk of dying. The current study hypothesizes that one potential reason for the discrepancy in these findings for neuroticism is that interactions among neuroticism and other key personality traits have largely been ignored. Thus, in the current study we focus on testing whether the personality traits neuroticism and conscientiousness interact to predict mortality. Specifically, we borrow from recent evidence of "healthy neuroticism" to explore whether higher levels of neuroticism are only a risk factor for increased mortality risk when conscientiousness levels are low. We conducted a pre-registered integrative data analysis using 12 different cohort studies (total N = 44,702). Although a consistent pattern emerged of higher levels of conscientiousness predicting a reduced hazard of dying, neuroticism did not show a consistent pattern of prediction. Moreover, no study provided statistical evidence of a neuroticism by conscientiousness interaction. The current findings do not support the idea that the combination of high conscientiousness and high neuroticism can be protective for longevity. Future work is needed to explore different protective factors that may buffer the negative effects of higher levels of neuroticism on health, as well as other behaviors and outcomes that may support the construct of healthy neuroticism.

Keywords: Big Five; IALSA; conscientiousness; coordinated IDA; healthy neuroticism; mortality.