How Conscientiousness Is Important for Your Health
Photo by Matt Duncan on Unsplash
Written by: Patrick D. Randolph, Ph.D.
Date Updated: 8/17/2021
Edited by: Sabrina Sourjah
Are you a conscientious person? Here’s a quick test to find out.
Do you set goals annually and break them into quarterly and monthly goals? Are you a proud owner of a planner or bullet journal? Do you mostly focus on the future instead of worrying about the past?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are probably a conscientious individual who lives your life with intention.
If you’re not a conscientious person, you’ll be happy to know that conscientiousness is like learning to play the piano. It can be improved with instruction and regular practice.
What Is Conscientiousness?
Conscientiousness is described as having self-control, thinking before acting, creating plans to reach objectives, and waiting patiently to achieve long-term goals.
Conscientiousness is a fundamental personality trait that can be a predictor of success. Other fundamental personality traits are extraversion, agreeableness, openness, and neuroticism. Research suggests that conscientiousness may be the single most powerful habit related to improving health and well-being.
Under the conscientiousness trait, there are a few sub-traits that further explain this trait. These sub-traits are achievement-oriented, cautious, dutiful, orderly, self-disciplined, and prone to self-efficacy.
Examples of Conscientiousness
Creating realistic goals for your work and personal life
Being punctual to meetings and other appointments
Meeting deadlines at work and keeping your word
Helping a co-worker with an assignment when they are ill
Plugging away at a difficult math problem
Striving to master a skill like writing or painting
Working long hours at a chosen job or hobby
Taking action to make your days productive
Preparing in advance for meetings and interviews
Importance of Conscientiousness
1. Overall Health
People high in conscientiousness have better health and manage chronic pain and illness with less distress. In addition, researchers state that conscientious people take a conscientious approach to health-related behaviors, improving their health conditions.
Those low on conscientiousness have high blood pressure, skin problems, Alzheimer’s disease (and other memory problems), strokes, ulcers, tuberculosis, and problems managing long-term illnesses like diabetes. They also tend to report poorer health, be more overweight, and engage in more substance use .
2. Surgery Outcomes
When you are conscientious, you look forward to recovery and will most likely plan for the postoperative period. You will also talk to your doctor and get an idea of what to expect during recovery. This will allow you to respond more favorably to medical care.
In addition, researchers on bariatric surgery have found that personality traits like conscientiousness impact dysfunctional eating more than anxiety and depression. This can also contribute to a successful recovery after bariatric surgery.
3. Mental Health
Studies show that conscientious individuals have lower levels of general health anxiety, depression, and stress. This is because they feel more in control and hopeful about the future.
However, the achievement-oriented nature of conscientious individuals can drive them towards burnout. So, conscientious individuals need to ensure that they get enough rest.
Research suggests that those low on conscientiousness have a 1.4 times higher risk of death than those high on conscientiousness. This could be related to the deliberate efforts of conscientious people to stay healthy and pursue goals.
5. Life Satisfaction
Conscientious people tend to be successful and happy in their careers and marriages. Relationship and career are strong indicators of life satisfaction, and therefore it can be assumed that conscientious individuals are more satisfied with life.
Building conscientiousness is a very good place to start if we want more personal control in health, longevity, mental health, surgery outcomes, and life satisfaction.
However, being conscientious is not without its wrinkles. Researchers found that the conscientious facing long-term unemployment reported less life satisfaction than those who were more relaxed. It may be difficult to accept when our thought-out plans don’t go as expected.