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									Personality, Health, and
Psychological Well Being
Major Points

Physical health
  Stress is associated with infectious disease
   and cardiovascular disease
  Social support reduces the negative
   consequences of stress
Psychological well being
  The best predictors of happiness are social
   support and work
Part 1: Physical Health
Physiology of Stress

Arousal response
  Results from activation of sympathetic
   branch of autonomic nervous system
  Fight-or-flight response
Increased                Decreased
Heart rate              Digestion
Blood pressure          Secretion of
Respiration rate         hormones (sex,
Perspiration             insulin, growth)
Blood flow to muscles
Secretion of stress
Stress and Health

Our bodies are well adapted for dealing
 with occasional stress
Our bodies are poorly adapted for dealing
 with constant stress
Some people respond more negatively to
 stress than others
Personality and Stress
Personality characteristics might
  predispose an individual to perceive many events as
  predispose an individual to have frequent stressful
  influence coping strategies person uses when faced
   with stress
  play a role in whether one has a social support
Stress and Illness:
Retrospective Studies

retrospective studies/correlational studies
 suggest that stress and illness are linked
  can’t make causal interpretations from
   retrospective/correlational data
An Example
Finding: people who are currently ill report more
 stressful life events within the past 3 months
 than people who are not ill.
possible interpretations
  stress causes illness (e.g., by lowering immune
  illness causes stress (e.g., miss work or school,
   have less energy to deal with challenges)
  stress causes poor health behaviors (e.g., substance
   use, poor nutrition), which in turn cause illness
  being sick biases memory for unpleasant events
Stress and Illness:
Prospective Studies

Stress plays a role in
  infectious disease
  cardiovascular disease
Infectious Disease
first-year med students provided records of
 illnesses they experienced during an entire
 academic year
  upper respiratory infections were more common
   immediately before and during exam periods
viral challenge studies
  Subjects were exposed to cold viruses
  Those who reported more stressful life events were
   more likely to develop colds
Cardiovascular Disease

Type A personality characteristic is linked
 to heart disease
Type A vs. Type B
Type A                  Type B
Extremely              Less competitive
  competitive           Less strong sense of
Strong sense of time     time urgency
  urgency               Little anger and
Lots of anger and        hostility
Research Findings

Short term
  Type A have quicker, more vigorous, and
   longer lasting arousal response to stress
Long term
  Type A associated with coronary heart
Anger and hostility most important
Barefoot, Dahlstrom, &
Williams (1983)
  25-year longitudinal study of 225 med students
  while in med school, given Anger Content scale from
  those in upper half of distribution were 4 times more
   likely to have developed coronary disease by middle
  those with high scores were 7 times more likely to
   have died by middle age
Social Support

Reduces negative consequences of stress
Some findings:
  Married people are more healthy
  People who attend religious services are
   more healthy
  12-year longitudinal study of 3000 people
   found men with lowest levels of social support
   4x as likely to die; women 2x as likely to die
The Big Five Traits and
Note: current measures of the “big five” haven’t
 been around that long
  must rely on longitudinal studies of older personality
   tests that correlate with current tests of big five
Some results
  Neuroticism is associated with health complaints
   (e.g., reports of chest pain), but not with objective
   indicators (e.g., high blood pressure)
The Big Five Traits and
Health (continued)

Conscientiousness is positively correlated
 with longevity, but we don’t know why
  those high vs. low in conscientiousness don’t
   differ regarding cause of death
Neuroticism and extraversion not related
 to longevity
Coping with Stress
Two major coping strategies
  Problem-focused (dealing with cause of problem)
  Emotion-focused (dealing with feelings about
Whether or not coping strategy is effective
 depends on nature of situation and person’s
  If situation uncontrollable, emotion-focused may be
   the only way to reduce stress
  Emotion-focused often found to be ineffective in
   other situations

Optimists tend to use active coping
 strategies; pessimists use withdrawal
Optimism is associated with fewer self-
 reported physical symptoms
Coping with Illness

Optimism is associated with
  Quicker recovery from coronary bypass
  Less emotional distress among women who
   had surgery for breast cancer
  Lower mortality among breast cancer
Part 2: Psychological
Well Being
Major Finding
Most people are reasonably happy most of the
data collected from 1980-1986 from 170,000
 people in 16 different countries
  0-10 scale
  80% were at least “fairly satisfied” with their lives
  Danes and Swedes were happiest (8)
  Portuguese were least happy (5.5)
  Americans were in the middle (7.5)
What is not associated with
 Lottery winners only a little happier
 Most wealthy only a little happier
    Study compared 50 people from Forbes magazine’s list of
     400 wealthiest people (most had incomes over $10,000,000)
     to nonwealthy (mean income = $36,000)
    very wealthy were happy 77% of time; nonwealthy were
     happy 62% of time
    happiness rated on 1-7 scale: very wealthy = 5.8;
     nonwealthy = 5.2.
What is not associated with
  Old as happy as young
  Cross sectional study of people in 16 countries.
  Categorized by age. 15-24, 25-34, 45-54, 55-64, and
  Across all ages, 80% were “satisfied with life”
  Men and women equally happy
What is associated with

Social Relationships
  People who have strong social relationships
   are happier
  Married happier than single
  Satisfaction with family life best predictor of
What is associated with
 People who are interested in and challenged by their
  work are happier
 determinants of work satisfaction
    satisfaction with supervisor
    satisfaction with coworkers
    opportunities for promotion
    pay: perceived fairness of pay more important than actual
     dollar amount
    flow: situation where challenge and skill level are both high
Adaptation Effects

We quickly adapt to constant environment
 and consider it to be normal, even if it is
 fairly extreme
Happiness is relative

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