Is Change Bad? Personality Change Is Associated with Poorer Psychological Health and Greater Metabolic Syndrome in Midlife


  • Support for MIDUS came from the National Institute on Aging (RO1 AG-032271, P01 AG-020166). Preparation of this article was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant to Jeremy C. Biesanz (410-2008-2643). The Online Supplemental Appendix can be found at

Please address correspondence to Lauren J. Human, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4. E-mail:


Personality change is emerging as an important predictor of health and well-being. Extending previous research, we examined whether two types of personality change, directional and absolute, are associated with both subjective and objective indicators of health. Utilizing the longitudinal Midlife in the United States survey (MIDUS) data, we examined whether both types of change over 10 years were associated with psychological well-being, self-reported global health, and the presence of metabolic syndrome (MetS) components and diagnosis. Socially undesirable personality change (e.g., becoming less conscientious and more neurotic) and absolute personality change were independently associated with worse perceived health and well-being at Time 2. Notably, absolute personality change, regardless of the direction, was also associated with having a greater number of MetS components and a greater probability of diagnosis at Time 2. In sum, too much personality change may be bad for one's health: Socially undesirable and absolute personality change were both associated with worse psychological health and worse metabolic profiles over 10 years. These findings suggest that personality change may contribute to psychological and physical health, and provide initial insight into potential intermediate links between personality change and distal outcomes such as mortality.