Neuroticism may not seem like it's a good thing -- after all, past research has even suggested being not-neurotic is a common trait for healthy aging. But a new study suggests there might be such a thing as "healthy neuroticism," and it could help protect your body against inflammation.
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that people who are both neurotic -- meaning they are anxious, moody, tense and worry a lot -- and conscientious -- meaning they are responsible, hardworking and organized -- may have lower levels of the biomarker interleukin 6, a protein known to play a role in inflammation.
Neuroticism and conscientiousness are considered two of the "big 5" personality domains. The others include extraversion, agreeableness and openness.
People who are both neurotic and conscientious are the kinds of people "likely to weigh the consequences of their actions, and therefore their level of neuroticism coupled with conscientiousness probably stops them from engaging in risky behaviors," study researcher Nicholas A. Turiano, Ph.D., said in a statement.
The study, published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, included 1,054 people who participated in the National Survey of Midlife Development in the U.S. database. The study participants underwent tests evaluating their health, personality traits, physiological functioning and any biomarkers they had that might be linked with disease.
There were 441 people who scored "moderate" to "high" on traits of neuroticism and conscientiousness among all the study participants. Researchers found that higher scores on both of these traits were linked with lower levels of interleukin 6, as well as lower body mass indexes and lower rates of disease.
"Our findings suggest, consistent with prior speculation, that average to higher levels of Neuroticism can in some cases be associated with health benefits -- in this case when it is accompanied by high Conscientiousness," researchers wrote in the study. "Using personality to identify those at risk may lead to greater personalization in the prevention and remediation of chronic inflammation."