How you responded to the pandemic is linked to your personality type

Have you felt happier during lockdown? Stress levels improved? A new study suggests that's connected to whether you're an introvert or extravert.

by Frankie Dunn
25 March 2021, 5:23pm

Every now and then something big comes along that shakes the entire world and then scientists have a field day studying its impact. Back in February, we reported on the fact that the coronavirus pandemic was taking the greatest toll on Gen Z’s mental health above all other ages studied by the CDC, with 63% of 18 to 24 year olds involved claiming to be experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. That stung. We also filled you in on the publication of new research suggesting a post-pandemic exodus of Gen Z and young millennials from London. After all, who among us has not been struggling for the past year and harbouring a growing urge for a different sort of lifestyle? Well, according to yet another new study: introverts.

Published just last week, the study examines “personality trait predictors of adjustment during the COVID pandemic among college students”. A sample of 484 first year students from a US northeastern university were asked to complete the BFI personality assessment at the start of a semester that was ultimately disrupted by the you-know-what. Students then used an app to log daily self-assessments of their mood, stress levels and activities -- tracking this both before, during and after the onset of the pandemic. As you may expect (or indeed, have experienced), mood and wellness generally declined during COVID.

However, findings also indicate that the severity of the pandemic’s impact was dependent on levels of certain personality traits. “Higher levels of extraversion, for example, were found to be related to decreases in mood as the pandemic progressed, in contrast to those with lower extraversion, for whom there was a slight increase in mood over time,” the report states. “These data support the conclusion that personality traits are related to mental health and can play a role in a person’s ability to cope with major stressful events.” In other words, introverts actually experienced some mood improvements, while their extraverted counterparts suffered in that department.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the introverts, with the report noting that when it comes to stress levels, the findings were flipped. Students in the high extraversion groups  were shown to experience less stress during COVID, while those with low extraversion experienced slightly more. So what’s that all about? “There isn’t a straightforward interpretation of this combination of findings, but we speculate that, as hypothesized, more extraverted people might find the stimulation and challenges of busy academic life to be more rewarding,” the report surmises.

“Leaving this environment for home isolation thus could have resulted in feeling less stressed but more bored and lonely, resulting in a decrease in mood. This finding partially supported our hypothesis, although it is important to note that students with higher levels of extraversion, despite having a clear decrease in mood with COVID, still reported an overall more positive mood than their low extraversion peers.”

TLDR: Introverts felt happier during the pandemic, but also more stressed. And even though the mood levels of introverts increased, those levels still didn’t match the generally high mood levels of extraverts. Damn.

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mental health