Researchers study COVID-19 mortality among introverts and extroverts
Researchers study COVID-19 mortality among introverts and extroverts

Researchers study COVID-19 mortality among introverts and extroverts

In a recent study posted to medRxiv* preprint server, researchers investigated the link between introversion and risk of mortality during coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Examination: In the midst of a pandemic, introverts can have a mortality benefit. Image credit: Vitalii Vodolazskyi / Shutterstock

Studies have shown that extroverted populations have lower mortality rates compared to extroverted individuals under normal situations. However, within the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic, where social contact must be kept to a minimum, introverts may have an advantage.

About the study

In this study, researchers predicted that introverts were more likely to limit social interactions and activities in light of the pandemic compared to extroverts.

The team obtained data from a study called Midlife in the United States (MIDUS), which collected information related to non-institutionalized adults between the ages of 25 and 74 living in the United States. The study cohort included an oversampling of older individuals, men, a pair of twins, and a sample of siblings. The team confirmed participants’ vital status by searching through the National Death Index, longitudinal sample maintenance, and survey field work.

Participants’ personalities were estimated by wave 1 using questionnaires related to the five major personality taxonomy. The evaluation of each personality was based on the extent to which the participant responded to a set of four to seven descriptions using answers categorized into: (1) not at all, (2) a little, (3) some, and ( 4) a lot.

The team predicted extroversion as the mean of the five descriptors, including extroverted, lively, kind, talkative, and active. Furthermore, conscientiousness was evaluated with descriptors, including organized, hardworking, responsible, and careless. Neuroticism was evaluated using four descriptors such as moody, nervous, worrying, and calm. Furthermore, comfort was rated with five points described as helpful, caring, warm, sympathetic, and kind-hearted. Openness was described using elements such as creative, intelligent, imaginative, curious, sophisticated, broad-minded and adventurous.

The researchers also obtained self-rated health status from the participants, which was based on a five-point ordinary scale. Individuals’ physical limitations were also assessed based on the self-rated performance of eight tasks: (1) lifting or transporting groceries; (2) bending and kneeling, (3) walking over a kilometer, (4) walking several blocks, (5) walking a block, (6) vigorous activities such as running or lifting heavy objects, (7) climbing several flights, and (8) moderate activities such as bowling or vacuuming.

Results

The results of the survey showed that the average extroversion score was 3.2, while 40% of the participants scored 2.4 or less, 23% scored more than 3.6, and 12% scored the highest value of four. The average extroversion score was the highest for comfort with 3.5 and conscientiousness with 3.4, while neuroticism scored the lowest value at 2.2.

Before the pandemic, extroversion was correlated with lower mortality; during the pandemic, however, extroverted individuals showed higher pandemic-related excess mortality than introverted individuals. After adjusting for personality traits of conscientiousness, the variation in the effect of extroversion before and during the COVID-19 pandemic was somewhat significant. As the team also adjusted for the characteristics neuroticism, comfort, and openness, the effect of extroversion on mortality before the pandemic was more significant, while the effect during the pandemic was slightly weaker. Overall, the correlation between extroversion and pandemic-related excess mortality remained stable after adjusting for personality traits.

Compared to participants who scored an average level of extroversion, pre-pandemic mortality was 10% lower and 12% higher for participants who were extremely extroverted and extremely introverted, respectively. However, the team observed that the extroverts had higher mortality rates than the introverts throughout the pandemic.

The survival rate for individuals aged between 25 and 85 years fell from 57% before to 48% during the pandemic for extroverted individuals. On the other hand, the survival rate increased from 49% before to 64% during the pandemic for introverts. Thus, the survival rate for extroverted people during the pandemic was the same as for the introverts before the pandemic, while the survival rates for introverts during the pandemic were higher than for the extroverted ones before the pandemic.

Overall, the results of the study showed that the mortality benefit shown by the extroverts under normal situations was non-existent at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, introverts showed a significant mortality advantage over extroverts during the pandemic.

*Important message

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and therefore should not be considered as crucial, guide clinical practice / health-related behavior or be treated as established information.

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