Do you feel like your personality has changed since the pandemic? You’re not alone

Adults have become less extroverted, open, sociable and conscientious during the pandemic, a new study has found.

The results, published in the journal PLOS One, showed that the level of change was roughly equivalent to the average personality changes in a decade.

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According to the study, young adults in particular became moodier, more emotional and more sensitive to stress in 2021 compared to previous years.

The researchers analyzed survey results from more than 7,100 US adults from January 2021 to February 2022 and compared their responses to those given at the start of the pandemic – the period from March to December 2020 – as well as to responses from previous years.

The survey was based on the Big Five traits, a common way researchers rate personalities. Participants were rated on their levels of neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

During the 2020 period, the responses were fairly consistent with those collected prior to the onset of COVID.

However, the researchers saw significant changes over the period 2021-2022, indicating the collective stress of people affected by the pandemic over time.

Previous research has shown that personalities can change as we age or develop new habits, such as eating. B. Sports.

As people age, they often become less neurotic, extroverted, and outspoken, but more affable and conscientious, said lead author Angelina Sutin, a professor at Florida State University.

But from 2021 to 2022, adults aged 64 and younger showed declines in extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Adults under the age of 30 also showed an increase in neuroticism during this period, but other age groups did not.

“Adulting means that neuroticism decreases and agreeableness and conscientiousness increase, and we’re seeing the opposite for younger adults in the second year of the pandemic,” Sutin said.

Increase in hair loss due to long COVID.

Increase in hair loss due to long COVID.

However, adults over the age of 65 showed no significant personality changes compared to the years before the pandemic.

“The older you get, the more identity you create, the more firmly you are anchored in your social roles. You know more about who you are, so in some ways things will affect you less,” said Rodica Damian, associate professor of social psychology at the University of Houston, who was not involved with the research.

Northwestern University psychology professor William Revelle pointed out that some of the observed personality changes could also be due to other social and political events that took place during the period studied.

“There was a choice. There was a riot. There were big shootings and big protests,” said Revelle, who was also not involved in the study.

But he added that while it’s impossible to separate those influences from the impact of the pandemic, “COVID was one of the biggest stressors that hit everyone — that was the main thing that kept people at home.”

Will these personality changes last?

Previous research has not found a link between exposure to natural disasters and personality changes.

For example, one study found that the personalities of New Zealand residents were mostly relatively stable after the 2010-2011 Christchurch earthquakes.

Damian’s previous research also failed to find an overall change in personality traits in those affected by major storms like Hurricane Harvey.

However, the authors of the new study said the impact of COVID differs from that of a natural disaster.

“The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the entire globe and almost every aspect of life,” they wrote.

Sutin said one possible reason personalities didn’t seem to change at the start of the pandemic is that there was a more hopeful attitude in 2020.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, that emphasis was on coming together, working together and supporting one another,” which may have made people feel more emotionally stable, Sutin said. “That’s something that sort of fell apart in sophomore year.”

Dealing with long COVID.

Damian also noted that personalities don’t change overnight, so it’s not surprising that the researchers noticed a difference after two years instead of one. For example, she said, someone might experience a gradual decline in extraversion if they avoid parties for two years.

“All of a sudden your sense of self changed, your sense of identity changed because you just haven’t gone to a party in so long you’re not sure if you can anymore,” Damian said.

Researchers are unsure whether adults will revert to their old personalities once the social and economic impact of the pandemic wears off.

“We captured these features at a point in time, so we don’t know if these are permanent or temporary changes,” Sutin said.

Regardless, she said she’s concerned about young adults, as her findings suggest they may be at higher risk for mental health issues, unhealthy exercise or eating habits, or increased challenges at school or work.

Neuroticism “is a very consistent predictor of mental health outcomes like depression and anxiety,” Sutin said.

And conscientiousness, which declined in this age group, “is very important for educational and work outcomes, as well as for relationships and physical health,” she added.

Damian said it’s common to see the most dramatic changes in personality traits in adults between the ages of 18 and 25, as that’s when people generally take on new responsibilities and lifestyle changes when they go to college or get their first jobs.

“If the personality changes they’ve experienced have some sort of snowball effect because it’s a critical developmental period, then they might still see downsides later on,” Damian said.

Common COVID questions answered.

Common COVID questions answered. Do you feel like your personality has changed since the pandemic? You’re not alone

James Brien

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