Personality can predict how lockdown affected mental health, study finds

Professor Eugenio Proto standing in front of cloisters

Individuals with open and extrovert personalities experienced higher deterioration in their mental health than other personality types, during the Covid-19 lockdown, a new study suggests.

Females with an open personality and high level of cognitive skills were particularly affected.

Those individuals with a personality featuring high in the agreeableness trait experienced less mental health deterioration.

Research from University of Glasgow Adam Smith Business School measured and compared the mental health impact of the lockdown on individuals with different personality traits and cognitive skills. 

The study used data from the Covid-19 Survey UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) and the year before. 

Several studies have been devoted to establishing the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health across gender, age and ethnicity. However, much less attention has been paid to the differential effect of lockdown according to different personalities. 

The research looked at a 12-question General Health Questionnaire, which creates an aggregate score for participants’ mental health and is a screening device for identifying psychiatric disorders, with higher scores indicating higher mental distress. 

Professor Eugenio Proto of the University of Glasgow Adam Smith Business School, said: “These results show how people with an open personality, especially women, are paying a big price from this lockdown in terms of mental health. Openness is a personality trait typical of creative people like artists and entrepreneurs, hence this can have repercussions on the economy and on the society as a whole in the post Covid era.” 

Co-author Dr Anwen Zhang, said: “Our research highlights that mental health is a prominent and complex issue that requires policy priority. It is necessary to understand that people respond to circumstances and policies in different ways, and policy must reflect this when it comes to addressing differential needs of the population.”

Understanding how individuals with different personalities react to an extreme condition such as a lockdown can give us more information on the link between personality and mental health and lead to identification of at-risk groups as well as more personalised psychological or psychiatric treatments for the post-Covid period.  

It could also make clearer unintended consequences of Covid-19 restrictions and inform policy making.

 


Enquiries: Clairelouise.smith@glasgow.ac.uk 

First published: 15 June 2021

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