Recent U.S. research has shown that neurotic people who are also conscientious have very low levels of Interleukin 6 (IL-6), an indicator of chronic disease and inflammation.
Neurotics tend to suffer from anxiety and moodiness with adverse health effects in extreme cases, such as depression and alcoholism.
However, when neurotic people are also conscientious, they can be highly organized and goal-oriented. The researchers looked at how such “healthy neuroticism” might be good for health.
“These people are likely to weigh the consequences of their actions, and therefore their level of neuroticism coupled with conscientiousness probably stops them from engaging in risky behaviors,” explained Nicholas A. Turiano at the University of Rochester Medical Center in a press release.
The team looked at over 1,000 people in a national database with full health evaluations, including physiological function, personality traits, and tests for disease-related biomarkers, such as the immune protein IL-6.
IL-6 levels are linked with inflammatory conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
“Speculation is that healthy neurotics may be hyper-vigilant about their lifestyle and about seeking treatment when a problem arises,” Turiano said.
“It’s their conscientiousness that guides their decisions to prevent disease or quickly get treatment when they don’t feel well.”
The scientists found the neuroticism-conscientiousness relationship in 441 people, and those with higher scores for both traits had lower levels of IL-6. They also had lower body-mass index scores and fewer chronic health conditions.
“Future studies will try to figure out who are the healthy neurotics and why they are healthier,” Turiano concluded.
“Eventually, the clinical application might allow us to identify patients at high risk for chronic inflammation, and therefore have an increased risk of health problems and death.”
The findings were published online in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity on Oct. 31.
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