Many researchers generally agree that personality is made up of 5 unique traits:
- Conscientiousness (organization, productiveness, responsibility)
- Extraversion (sociability, assertiveness; its opposite is Introversion)
- Agreeableness (compassion, respectfulness, trust in others)
- Openness (intellectual curiosity and creative imagination)
- Neuroticism (tendencies toward anxiety and depression)
Some people may have very high or low levels of any single trait, but most of us fall somewhere in-between.
What is conscientiousness?
Conscientiousness describes how organized, determined, and likely to follow norms and rules someone is.
- Those with high levels of conscientiousness tend to work hard to achieve their goals and complete tasks they’ve started. They also tend to get higher grades in school and perform better in many jobs, but are more likely to experience perfectionism and fear of failure.
- Those with low levels of conscientiousness tend to act spontaneously instead of making plans. While they may be a bit disorganized, they’re also more likely to be flexible with decision-making, and able to bounce back from setbacks. Overall, they may find it easier to look at the big picture than pay attention to details.
Why does conscientiousness matter for health and health decision-making?
Research has found that people who are high in conscientiousness tend to live longer and healthier lives. Why? Because they tend to be rule followers, people who are high in conscientiousness are more likely to follow health recommendations.
For example, on average, conscientious people drink less alcohol, eat healthier diets, and are more likely to wear seat belts.
Conscientious people may also have healthier coping mechanisms–that is, ways to deal with negative life events–than people who are less conscientious.
For example, conscientious people are more likely to try to solve a difficult problem (e.g., going for daily walks to reduce cholesterol) than to use an emotional escape (e.g., watching television to distract from thoughts about cholesterol).
We recently offered our members the opportunity to take a survey to see where they fall on the spectrum for conscientiousness. If you’re an Evidation Member who took the survey and received your conscientiousness results, read on to understand what a high or low score may mean for your health. If you’re not a member and want to see results like these, download the Evidation app.
What does my conscientiousness score mean for me?
Although research has found that conscientiousness relates to mental and physical health, having a low score doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to have poor health just as having a high score doesn’t mean you’ll never be ill.
No matter what your level of conscientiousness, you can use what research has uncovered about personality and health to improve your own well-being.
If you’d like to increase your conscientious behavior for better health, aim to set small, achievable goals. Below are some tips you may find useful:
- Reflect on how to avoid or overcome obstacles. Imagine your desired future self and think about the obstacles you may face in becoming that person and how you might be able to overcome them. For example, if your goal is to become a less distracted driver, an obstacle might be that you’re tempted to look at your phone whenever you see an incoming message. One way to overcome this obstacle might be to set your phone to “do not disturb” when driving so that you can’t see the alerts and are reminded to break the habit of looking.
- Create “if-then” plans for handling situations related to your health goals. For example, if you want to reduce your tobacco consumption, your if-then plan may be: “If I crave a cigarette, then I’ll take a five minute walk instead.”
- Track your progress and celebrate small victories. For example, if your goal is to walk more, set a small, specific, and achievable goal: “I’ll walk for 5 minutes every morning after I finish my coffee.” As your walks become a habit, increase the time, but be careful not to let missed walks discourage you–you can pick up again tomorrow!
…and don’t forget, start small to set yourself up for success!
Want to receive more personalized health insights? Complete cards daily in the Evidation app and, if you haven’t already, connect a compatible health app.
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