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Mental Health

Study explores how the pandemic changed our personalities

The authors of the study said that younger adults have been most affected.

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By Danny Halpin via SWNS

The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed people’s personalities, according to new research.

The changes were equivalent to how a person’s personality changes normally over a 10-year period.

Previous studies have generally found no association between stressful events affecting a lot of people, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, and personality change.

But because the pandemic affected the entire world and almost every aspect of life, researchers from Florida State University College of Medicine believe it has changed the way we think, feel and behave.

The authors of the study said that younger adults have been most affected and have become more neurotic, more prone to stress and less cooperative.

Publishing their results in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers, led by Dr. Angelina Sutin, assessed the personalities of 7,109 people enrolled in the online Understanding America Study.

They compared how traits such as neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness differed between pre-pandemic (May 2014 – February 2020), early pandemic (March – December 2020) and the pandemic’s later period (2021 – 2022).

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Participants were 41.2 percent male and ranged in age from 18 to 109. The researchers analyzed a total of 18,523 personality assessments, a mean of 2.62 per participant.

Consistent with other studies, there were relatively few changes between the pre-pandemic and 2020 personality traits, with only a small decline in neuroticism.

However, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness all declined when 2021-2022 data was compared to pre-pandemic personality.

Younger adults showed increased neuroticism and decreased agreeableness and conscientiousness while the oldest group of adults showed no statistically significant changes in traits.

The authors concluded that if these changes last, it suggests that population-wide stressful events can slightly bend the trajectory of personality development, especially in younger adults.

They said: “There was limited personality change early in the pandemic but striking changes starting in 2021.

“Of most note, the personality of young adults changed the most, with marked increases in neuroticism and declines in agreeableness and conscientiousness.

“That is, younger adults became moodier and more prone to stress, less cooperative and trusting, and less restrained and responsible.”

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