Which personality types have dealt with the pandemic the best

We liked this story by Andreas Kluth at Bloomberg, that discusses which personality types have dealt with the pandemic best, with a  focus on which personalities have adapted the best to pandemic- related lock downs in particular.

Drawing on research from academic research published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the article suggests that people with high levels of conscientiousness seemed to do best in lock down, perhaps against expectations that it would be introverts that would be most comfortable with this situation. The reason for this was that people who are the most innately conscientious would also be the most likely to create beneficial structures and routines in their lives in the face of external restrictions and uncertainties.

Unsurprisingly, those with a tendency towards neuroticism generally found lockdown and the pandemic broadly most challenging, and perhaps counterintuitively extroverts with their typically more positive outlook seemed to do a little better than introverts who you might have expected to be more content, once all the pressures to get out in the world and interact with others were taken away.

Of course there are many other considerations beyond personality traits which would impact on how each individual has fared during lockdown including: age, health, employment status and stability, and the conditions present in each individual’s lockdown situation. For example, whether we actually alone during lockdown or with other family members or flatmates, and how well we get on with these people. Not all lock downs are the same either around the world,  with some being much longer and more restrictive than others.

This study also only examined responses from around 500 U.S. residents, which is a bit of a limitation if we then try to apply the same findings universally to everyone and to other parts of the world. Although another recently published study of nearly 3000 people in Slovenia , did broadly support their findings too. It also suggested that neuroticism was the worst dominant trait to have over this period, but found the best individual outcomes could be predicted by individual resilience rather than another specific one of the “Big 5” personality traits: extraversion,  conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness.

However if you look a little more closely at what that “resilience” actually means in this context:  being able to adapt to stressful situations including “healthy patterns of self-regulation“, then this also appears to hint at the same structures and routines that people with high levels of conscientiousness would be the most likely to create and follow. It is also worth saying that while the first study looked at lockdown in particular the second was about coping with the pandemic in general, and so asking a slightly different question.

Most of us aren’t in a position to do actual research like this but I wonder if these results reflect what we have seen ourselves amongst our family, friends and colleagues too? The other takeaway seems to be that if we find ourselves in situations where we have unexpected restrictions on what we can do and where we can go, setting up some positive patterns and routines is likely to be beneficial.