If your obsessive personality leads people to call you neurotic, don't feel bad—you'll probably get the last laugh. According to a new study published in Psychological Science, being neurotic is linked to a longer life span.
In the study, British researchers analyzed data from more than 500,000 people in the U.K. between the ages of 37 and 73. The volunteers filled out questionnaires on their lifestyle behaviors, health conditions, and how healthy they felt in general. Investigators also assessed each individual's level of neuroticism, a condition most typically associated with worry, guilt, and irritable behavior.
"Those with neurotic behaviors have a perpetual heightened state of anxiety," explains Antonia Hall, MA, a psychologist and relationship expert. "Neurotic people experience negative emotions that can include irritability, anger, jealousy, depression, guilt, and an overall lack of trust that things will work out or be okay in life." (If you're wondering if you're neurotic, your house may hold the clues to your personality type.)
All that sounds pretty rough, but after study participants were followed for about six years, data showed that those with high levels of neuroticism who reported not feeling their best on their initial exams were actually benefiting from a slightly reduced risk of death and chronic disease—cancer, specifically—compared to participants with lower levels of neuroticism. Those who were ranked highest in neurotic tendencies were also found to have a lower risk of death.
Hall says she's not surprised by these findings. "People with neurotic behaviors can have hypochondriac tendencies, so it makes sense that this could lend to finding illnesses and diseases earlier, in a more treatable time frame."
Unfortunately the study found that neurotic personality types weren't any less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors like drinking, smoking (which can negatively affect your appearance, as well), or poor diet, but those people were more likely to be sensitive to perceived health changes. (Looking for home remedies to get natural anxiety relief?)
Neurotic people may tend to be more aware, but experts suggest living a healthy lifestyle is probably the most advantageous.
"Those with neurotic behaviors often turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms," shares Hall. "These can include excessive alcohol use and smoking. It's important to incorporate good healthy practices to balance the stress of increased anxiety, or one is far more prone to burn out and health issues."