Shy Kids Are Kind of Screwed: Extroversion in Young Adulthood Linked to Greater Satisfaction In Life

ASCOT, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 19: Young women arrive by stretch limousine to attend Ladies Day at Royal Ascot racecourse on June 19, 2008 in Ascot, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
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Want to live a long and happy life? Talk to the stranger sitting next to you. According to a new study, extroversion in young adulthood is linked to happiness later on in life. Researchers also found that neurotic introverts had lower levels of well-being. That's one more thing to be nervy about.

Researchers of the study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, surveyed more than 4,000 people aged 16 to 26 in 1946, asking them about their extroverted qualities — energy, sociability, etc. — and their neurotic habits — distraction, moodiness, and so on. Researchers waited decades to follow up on the same participants between the ages of 60 and 64. About half of the original respondents reported their levels of well-being and life satisfaction, along with their physical and mental health.

Turns out those with extroverted qualities in young adulthood reported greater well-being and life satisfaction, while those with neurotic tendencies leaned the opposite way. Researcher Dr. Catherine Gale commented, "personality in youth appears to have an enduring influence on happiness decades later."

Long-term happiness for extroverts can be chalked up to optimism. Mingling often leads to a more positive outlook on life, an attitude that influences mental health and longevity. Personality and life choices account for an overwhelming part of how we age. "Several studies have found that genetics accounts for only about one-third of how long and well we live," explains Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Center on Aging.

The notion that neurotic behavior leads to a stressful outlook, hindering your life-satisfaction and mental health, is not rocket science. But introverts might also be more prudent, weighing decisions carefully — a habit also linked to longevity. Ideally, we'd all live the best of both worlds: Mulling things over carefully, but jumping into social situations when the opportunity arises. Now that's a recipe for long-term happiness. 


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