FEB 23, 2021 8:00 AM PST

Immune Link Explains Why Personality Influences Mortality

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

University of Limerick researchers have discovered direct links between the immune system, specific personality traits, and mortality. In a recent study, the scientists uncover novel biological mechanisms that explain why responsible and organized individuals capable of self-control tend to live longer.

“Personality is known to be associated with long-term risk of death, it is a well-replicated finding observed across numerous research studies internationally,” said study lead Páraic Ó Súilleabháin. Together with an interdisciplinary team of researchers, Ó Súilleabháin set out to investigate the involvement of two immune factors, interleukin-6 and c-reactive protein, in explaining the association between personality traits and long-term mortality risks.

“We found that part of the reason why people who score higher on the personality trait of conscientiousness live longer is as a result of their immune system, specifically due to lower levels of a biological marker called interleukin-6,” explained Ó Súilleabháin, adding, “There are likely further biological mechanisms that are yet to be discovered which will give a clearer picture of all the different ways that our personalities are so critical to our long-term health.”

Interleukin-6 is a pro-inflammatory cytokine produced by macrophages in response to infections and has also been implicated in many diseases including cancer, diabetes, depression, multiple myeloma, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Our personality impacts many facets of our lives, from early development to our thoughts, actions, and lifestyles throughout our adult lives. Those who scored lower on the personality trait of conscientiousness were found to face a 40% increased risk of dying sooner compare to those who scored higher. This new data reveals a fascinating biological pathway that contributes to this phenomenon.

“These findings are very important and identify for the first time that an underlying biological marker directly links personality to long-term mortality risk. With replication, these findings provide an opportunity for future interventions to increase our longevity and health across the lifespan,” said Ó Súilleabháin.

 


Sources: Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, University of Limerick.

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
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