Chronic worrying can hasten death because it is more likely to promote unhealthy behaviours like smoking, warns a new study. Chronic worrying, anxiety and vulnerability to depression are key aspects of a neurotic personality.
"Research shows that higher levels of neuroticism can lead to earlier mortality, and we wanted to know why," said Daniel K. Mroczek, professor of child development and family studies at Purdue University (P-U).
"We found that having worrying tendencies or being the kind of person who stresses easily is likely to lead to bad behaviours like smoking and, therefore, raise the mortality rate.
"This work is a reminder that high levels of some personality traits can be hazardous to one's physical health," Mroczek added.
A better understanding of the bridge between personality traits and physical health can perhaps help clinicians improve intervention and prevention programmes, he said.
Researchers found that smoking accounted for about 25 percent to 40 percent of the association between high neuroticism and mortality.
The other 60 percent is unexplained, but possibly attributed to biological factors or other environmental issues that neurotic individuals experience, Mroczek said.
Researchers analysed data of 1,788 men and their smoking behaviour and personality traits over a 30-year period from 1975 to 2005.
These findings were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Research in Personality.