The healthy selfie

It might not have been the word of the year again this year but the “selfie” is certainly a sign of the times. As well as revealing the mobile phone as the technology-du-jour, the selfie reveals the disturbing human tendency to think that adding an “ie” to the end of a word (and pronouncing it “ee”) somehow diminishes its effect. A “drinkie” still has to be metabolised by the liver in the same way as a tequila slammer and an “ouchie” can still be a nasty little cut that hurts quite a bit. In the same way taking a picture of yourself eating breakfast or standing next to your favourite pot plant and then sharing it with the world still reveals a degree of extraversion and narcissism even if you do call it a “selfie” (an abbreviation for “self-absorption”?). Whatever you think of selfie exponents however, if a degree of extraversion does underlie the willingness to share with the rest of the world what you happen to be doing at a given moment, then that may also have some benefits in terms of your health.

Your personality certainly has an effect on how you live your life and this extends into the realm of your health. This has been shown in many studies but in new research it has been shown that aspects of your personality also impact on your immunity.

In the new study subjects completed questionnaires that measured the five primary dimensions of personality (extraversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness). All of the subjects also provided blood samples that the researchers used to assess the activity of genes in white blood cells that play a role in the activity of the immune system. Additionally, each person’s exercise, smoking, and drinking behaviours were taken into account to rule them out as contributing factors.

The results showed that people who scored highest for extraversion (being assertive, talkative, and enthusiastic) had increased immune cell gene activity compared to those who scored high on conscientiousness. A small link was also found between openness and immune function.

The researchers theorise that people who have a more socially oriented nature can expect to be exposed to more potential infections and so their immune system becomes primed to cope with that.

This kind of research follows in the vein of other studies showing that personality impacts health outcomes like cardiovascular disease risk and even lifespan.

If your resolution for 2015 is to be healthier then it will help to realise that you can’t simply exercise or eat your way to Health. Your personality is at least as important as any other factor in how healthy you are and therefore in determining the quality of your life. Make your resolutions for the new year, but if they don’t include maintained awareness of your own nature then you are missing an essential element.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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