Long-Term Relations of Personality and Health: Dynamisms, Mechanisms, Tropisms



There is now little doubt that individuals who are well-adjusted, socially stable, and well-integrated into their communities are at significantly lower risk for disease and premature mortality than those who are more unstable, impulsive, isolated, and alienated. The reasons for these associations, however, are complex and the pathways insufficiently studied. This article employs a life-span data set to explore how childhood personality relates to health-related growth and development (dynamisms), patterns of reactions and health behaviors (mechanisms), and movements toward and away from suitable environments (tropisms). Illustrations from the 7-decade Terman longitudinal data reveal important areas in which previous, cross-sectional research has misinterpreted associations between personality and health. In particular, Sociability has been overrated as a life-span health risk factor, Conscientiousness has been underrated, and Neuroticism has been confused. Without sufficient attention to the processes underlying the associations between personality and health, significant suboptimal allocations of intervention resources result.