Sept. 7, 2014 • 1 min
Research reveals that a changing character can influence life satisfaction even more than economic disturbance. A study investigated how evolving character traits relate to life satisfaction. Researchers assessed 8,625 people aged 15 to 93 at two points, four years apart. They measured the Big Five personality traits (openness to experience, agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion and neuroticism) and tracked fluctuations in external aspects of subjects’ lives, including marital status, income and employment status. The data reveal that the participants’ character changed during those four years at least as much as demographic factors, such as marital status or employment. And those small personality shifts were more closely tied to life satisfaction than the other indicators were. For instance, people who grew less agreeable reported less fulfilled in life than they had felt four years earlier, whereas those who became more open reported greater contentment. This study did not attempt to find out what caused the subjects’ personalities to transform, but other recent work has shown that certain experiences can change specific traits. For instance, psychological trauma – such as that experienced by combat soldiers – has been linked with decreases in agreeableness and conscientiousness.