(ORDO NEWS) — A research team led by faculty at the Florida State University College of Medicine found that the COVID-19 pandemic caused personality changes, especially in young adults.
A study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that population-wide stress caused by the pandemic made young people moodier, more stress-prone, less friendly and confident, and less reserved and responsible.
“We don’t yet know if these changes are temporary or long-term, but if they persist, they could have long-term consequences,” said Angelina Sutin, professor in the college’s Department of Behavioral Sciences and Social Medicine and lead author of the study.
“Neuroticism and conscientiousness are predictive of mental and physical health, as well as relationships, educational and professional outcomes, and changes seen in these traits may increase the risk of poorer outcomes.”
Changes in young adults (study participants younger than 30 years old) showed impaired maturity, manifested by increased neuroticism and decreased satisfaction and conscientiousness, in the later stages of the pandemic.
Middle-aged adults (30 to 64 years) also showed changes, and the oldest group of adults showed no statistically significant changes.
Previous research has supported the longstanding hypothesis that environmental pressures have relatively little effect on personality, but this study shows that a global stressful event can affect personality in a way that more localized crisis events, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, typically do not.
The researchers used longitudinal personality scores of 7,109 people who participated in the online Understanding America Study, comparing personality traits on a five-factor model: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, contentment, and conscientiousness.
The time periods were measured before the pandemic (May 2014 – February 2020), at the beginning of the pandemic (March – December 2020) and at the end of the pandemic (2021-2022).
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