December 29, 2012
Neuroticism: Could It Be Good For Your Health?
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
Anxiety has often been at least anecdotally linked with health issues, but new research from one US university hospital suggests high levels of neuroticism could actually be good for a person's well-being.
As reported previously by Today.com, University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) post-doctoral fellow Nicholas Turiano has discovered evidence that subjects who described themselves as worriers and who also demonstrated high levels of organization and self-control (referred to as 'conscientiousness' in the study) tended to have lower levels of Interleukin 6 (IL-6).
IL-6 has been described as a key biomarker for inflammation and chronic disease. The substance is secreted by T cells and macrophages to stimulate immune response during injury or infections. IL-6 has been demonstrated to be essential for resistance against some forms of pneumonia in mice and has also reportedly been linked to diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, prostate cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.
"In addition to lower levels of IL-6, self-described neurotics also have lower body-mass index scores and fewer diagnosed chronic health conditions," Today.com reporter Stephanie Castillo said. "Researchers arrived at their results after conducting clinical evaluations--12 hours worth of urine samples, along with fasting blood and saliva samples--on more than 1,000 adults. The tests were designed to provide accurate assessments of conditions linked to inflammation, such as heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and diabetes."
"Most studies find that a higher level of neuroticism is associated with increased substance abuse, higher inflammation, and increased risk of mortality," Turiano, who is affiliated with the URMC Department of Psychiatry, told Castillo. "However, what we found was that when people are high both in neuroticism and conscientiousness, the conscientiousness buffers the negative effects of neuroticism."
The study, which was previously covered in the Daily Mail and published online in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, found 441 individuals who had high scores in both neuroticism and conscientiousness, the UK newspaper reported.
The higher a subject scored in both categories, the lower their IL-6 levels and BMI scores.
"Speculation is that healthy neurotics may be hyper-vigilant about their lifestyle and about seeking treatment when a problem arises," Turiano told Daily Mail reporter Claire Bates. "It´s their conscientiousness that guides their decisions to prevent disease or quickly get treatment when they don´t feel well."
More research is needed before Turiano and his colleagues can confirm the potential medical benefits of the neuroticism/conscientiousness trait set, Castillo says. In the meantime, the researcher suggests so-called neurotics looking to lessen other types of physical or mental health risks should seek out ways to help lower their anxiety levels and discover how to better control their emotions.