COVID-19 might have altered several personality traits, says new study.
The long grind of social isolation impacted all of us in different ways. But just how much of our personality was altered? A study published in the journal ‘PLOS ONE’ suggests the global pandemic triggered personality changes.
“The pandemic was an unprecedented opportunity to see how a collective stressful event may impact personality,” lead author Prof. Angelina Sutin of Florida State University College of Medicine told ‘CNN’.
A research team led by the Florida State University College of Medicine used assessments of personality from over 7 100 Americans aged between 18 and 109 before and during the pandemic. Participants took an average of three personality tests that measured five traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
“We know that personality is pretty stable,” Prof. Sutin told ‘Fortune’. “It can and does change, but not that much. With the pandemic, it was really an unprecedented opportunity to look at how this collected stressor had an effect on personality.”
Personality remained quite stable during the first phase of the pandemic (March to December 2020). Only neuroticism declined a bit compared with the pre-pandemic period. The reason for this was that the coronavirus gave people a reason to feel anxious and were less likely to blame their own disposition.
During the second phase of the pandemic (2021-2022), the decline in neuroticism had disappeared and was replaced by reductions in extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness in contrast with pre-pandemic personality. These changes reflected a fluctuation that is normally seen over a decade.
Which age group was most affected?
Younger adults revealed the biggest changes. They became moodier and more susceptible to stress, as well as less cooperative, trusting, restrained and responsible. The oldest group of adults had no major changes in traits.
“Although the pandemic was stressful for everyone, it disrupted the normative tasks of younger adulthood, such as school and the transition into the workforce and being sociable and developing relationships,” explained Prof. Sutin in ‘The Guardian’. “It is speculative because we did not measure reasons for the change, but this disruption may have had a larger impact on younger adults because these tasks are very important for this age group.”
The pandemic disrupted almost everything about our lives. It was difficult for everyone, whatever the reasons. Brent Roberts, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the United States who was not involved in the study, told ‘CNN’: “In other words, (people) are not crazy, it’s been a hard few years on all of us. So much so that there has even been a small effect on our personalities.”