A recent study revealed personality traits likely unfazed by the COVID-19 pandemic. These traits were suggested with high psychological resilience during a pandemic.
The four personality traits with excellent mental resilience in a pandemic were unveiled by researchers at Nixplay. These traits were determined using two popular personality measures. People with traits of emotional stability, future-positive, past-positive, and extraversion were less likely affected by the adverse mental effects of the pandemic, compared to people with other traits or trait combinations. Their interpretation of the findings was people with one of the four traits could face the crisis with a positive mood.
The Stress Due to COVID-19 Pandemic
Presently, millions of people are suffering from mental stress induced by COVID-19. This is connected to the lack of a specific treatment or functional vaccine. Because the healthcare sector does not have either of the two, governments have no choice but to limit the operations of businesses and the movement of people. This limitation substantially affected travel, tourism, and the labor force. It has caused numerous companies to shut down, especially micro-businesses, which resulted in ballooning rates of unemployment worldwide.
According to Statista, a German portal for statistics, Black adults in the US experienced more stress due to COVID-19, compared to White and Hispanic adults. In a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, between July 14 and 19, 2020, 53% of US adults experienced COVID-19 stress. The stress rate was 50% among males and 57% among females. Adults aged 18 to 29 years had a higher stress rate of 62%, compared to 55% among aged 30 to 49 years, 50% among aged 50 to 64 years, and 47% among aged 65 years and older. Blacks had a stress rate of 68%, which was higher than the 51% rate in both Whites and Hispanics.
When it comes to adult anxiety and depression rates, the combined reports from the US CDC, NCHS, and US Census Bureau showed significant increases in May 2020, compared to January to June 2019. From May 14 to 19, 2020, the rates of anxiety and depressive symptoms were 33.9%, which overtook the 11% between January and June 2019. The rate of anxiety symptoms in the May period was 28.2%, compared to 8.2% from the other period. The rate of depressive symptoms in the May period was 24.4%, compared to 6.6% from the other period. These rates were determined using the eight-item Patient Health Questionnaire and the seven-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale.
The Personality Traits Resilient in a Pandemic
The Big Five personality traits are a part of the personality theory and used to properly understand the relationship between academic behaviors and personality. These traits are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Together, they represent the OCEAN acronym. While some consider the Big Five as positive traits, there are known negative sides in each member of the OCEAN. Oftentimes, the severe negative forms of these traits are associated with the Dark Triad personality traits.
Recently, digital photo company Nixplay conducted a study to determine which personality traits exhibited resilience in this pandemic. A total of 2,000 US adults were surveyed from August 27 to 28, 2020. They sought for the personality traits that showed signs of resilience in different forms. To do that, they tested the scores using the Big Five Personality Inventory and the Time Perspective Inventory. These measures were highly correlated to increased happiness, decreased loneliness, and the ability to cope during a pandemic. The results showed that people who scored high on the trait of emotional stability were most successful in handling COVID-19 stress.
"Our findings show that people who possess traits associated with stress resilience and adaptability are the ones coping best with the pandemic. Theories that the pandemic might somehow be affecting psychologically well-adjusted individuals more than others are simply not supported by the data," said Mark Palfreeman, CEO of Nixplay, quoted US magazine Psychology Today.
The scores also revealed the other three personality traits with high resilience during a pandemic. The first is the emotional stability trait. It refers to the ability to be emotionally stable and less prone to feeling nervous during stressful events. Due to being stable from within, the trait significantly reduces the impact of COVID-19 stress, which reflects its excellent psychological resilience in the pandemic. People who scored low in this trait are likely the most lonely and unhappy during this global crisis.
The second is the future-positive trait. It refers to a person who is goal-oriented and hard-working. Their positivity is directed toward the future, enabling them to divert mental energy to plan for a brighter tomorrow. A high score in this trait prevents the person from wasting mental energy in doubts and uncertainties. But that may cost them in their personal relationships. The future-positive trait is driven by professional goals, which provide resilience in this pandemic. It redirects the energy from frustration to productive actions.
The third is the past-positive trait. It refers to a person who had enjoyable past experiences in life. They often reminisce about positive past events and remain in contact with friends and loved ones. When they reminisce in those events, a positive vibe is created and it shields them from COVID-19 stress. Though, it is unknown how strong this protective effect is among different individuals with the same trait. This is because reminiscing may lead to a desire for different outcomes. Some past-positive people wish for other outcomes that make them prone to loneliness and unhappiness.
And finally, the fourth trait is extraversion. Normally, introversion is more resilient than extraversion because of low social needs. But the Nixplay survey did not observe that default. Extroverts have a higher chance to experience positive moods than introverts, despite having a greater need for socialization. That helps extroverts to maintain positive thinking and feelings more frequently than introverts.
Researchers concluded that reframing negative moods to positive ones could help people cope during this pandemic. Also, acceptance that some things are out of one's control and seeking comfort in religious or spiritual activities can reinforce mental resilience.