03/13/2014 08:20 am ET Updated Mar 13, 2014

What Your Personality Has To Do With Your Health

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Your personality colors the lenses through which you view the world, and now a new study suggests it could also have an impact on your health down the road.

Specifically, conscientious people have a lower risk of having health problems a decade later than their less-conscientious peers, according to the study.

The findings suggest that personality traits can be assessed during doctor visits so that doctors can help to "develop a more effective preventive health care plan that will result in a much healthier life," study researcher Salomon Israel, Ph.D., of Duke University and Duke University Medical Center, said in a statement.

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, included examination of the "Big Five" personality traits: extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism and openness to experience. The study included 1,037 people from a New Zealand study who were born between 1972 and 1973 and were followed by researchers until they were age 38.

When the participants were age 26, their personalities were assessed by having a person close to them describe them with the "Big Five" personality traits. Their personalities were again assessed when they were age 32, but at this time point, they were evaluated by a clinical receptionist or nurse (even though the nurse and receptionist weren't aware of the point of the study, their assessments of the participants' personalities was similar to the ones given by the close family/friends).

Then, the participants underwent physical exams at age 38 to check blood pressure, liver and kidney functioning, vascular inflammation, lung and heart fitness and periodontal disease.

Researchers found associations between personality and health at age 38. Just 18 percent of the people who were the most conscientious in the study developed health problems -- such as inflammation, hypertension, overweight and high cholesterol -- at age 38, compared with 45 percent of the least conscientious people.

Interestingly, researchers did not find an association between neuroticism -- which has been linked in past studies with health problems -- and poor health at age 38, though high neuroticism study participants were more likely to self-rate their health as poorer later in life.

"Although we demonstrate that observer ratings of personality predict future health, we do not rule out the potential of self-report measures to provide equally valuable inferences," the researchers wrote in the study. "Thus, although the association between Neuroticism and health appears less robust than Conscientiousness, the extent to which self-reports of Neuroticism predict objective health remains an open question."

With regard to neuroticism in particular, past research has shown that there is such a thing as "healthy" neuroticism. While neuroticism is usually associated with worrying, moodiness and nervousness, University of Rochester Medical Center researchers found that people who are high in both conscientiousness and neuroticism are more likely to fully weigh consequences -- and have lower levels of a biomarker for inflammation.