Age is just a number when it comes to how your personality shapes how happy you are with life, new research has revealed.

Researchers set out to explore whether the known link between certain personality traits and life satisfaction holds true across someone’s lifespan.

Assistant professor Dr Manon van Scheppingen, from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, said: “Our findings show that – despite differences in life challenges and social roles –personality traits are relevant for our satisfaction with life, work and social contacts across young, middle and older adulthood.

“The personality traits remained equally relevant across the adult lifespan, or became even more interconnected in some cases for work satisfaction.”

The research team looked at data from 2008 to 2019 from a survey of households in the Netherlands. Over the course of 11 years, more than 9,000 participants aged 16 to 95 at the start of the survey answered questions about five major personality traits – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and emotional stability/neuroticism.

They were also quizzed about how satisfied with areas of their life including social connections and their life in general. Those who were employed were asked about how satisfied they were with their work lives.

The research team discovered that emotional stability was the trait with the strongest link to life satisfaction. Another key finding was that the associations between personality and satisfaction were consistent throughout adulthood.

Certain personality traits were found to be linked to certain areas of satisfaction. For instance, conscientiousness was closely linked to work satisfaction, while extraversion and agreeableness were associated with social satisfaction.

Age did play more of a part when it came to work satisfaction. The older the participants in the study, the stronger the link between emotional stability and job satisfaction.

Dr van Scheppingen said: “A good example of how personality interacts with the environment can be found in the work context. One of our findings was that the link between emotional stability and work satisfaction increases across age.

“This might be explained by the fact that emotionally stable people are less scared to quit unsatisfactory jobs and more likely to apply for jobs that are more challenging and perhaps more fulfilling and enjoyable in the long run.”

Dr van Scheppingen said more research was needed to deepen their understanding of the findings and the impact of variables such as health and income, adding that the research “shows that our personalities and our happiness are not set in stone. Perhaps we may even be able to influence how we change: If we try to become more organised, outgoing, friendly, this might increase life, social or work satisfaction as well.”

Read the full survey in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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