April 28, 2009
Neurotic Men Improve Health Of Women

The guys have got to be both conscientious and neurotic in order to boost the health of their wives. But neurotic women do not improve the health of men.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Conscientiousness is a good thing in a mate, researchers report, not just because it's easier to live with someone who washes the dishes without being asked, but also because having a conscientious partner may actually be good for one's health. Their study, of adults over age 50, also found that women, but not men, get an added health benefit when paired with someone who is conscientious and neurotic.

This is the first large-scale analysis of what the authors call the "compensatory conscientiousness effect," the boost in health reported by those with conscientious spouses or romantic partners. The study appears this month in Psychological Science.

"Highly conscientious people are more organized and responsible and tend to follow through with their obligations, to be more impulse controlled and to follow rules," said University of Illinois psychology professor Brent Roberts, who led the study. Highly neurotic people tend to be more moody and anxious, and to worry, he said.

Researchers have known since the early 1990s that people who are more conscientious tend to live longer than those who are less so. They are more likely to exercise, eat nutritious foods and adhere to vitamin or drug regimens, and are less likely to smoke, abuse drugs or take unwarranted risks, all of which may explain their better health. They also tend to have more stable relationships than people with low conscientiousness.

Since I write posts on health and longevity do I attract neurotic readers? What do you say, are you neurotic?

Why don't neurotic women cause their mates to live longer? Do the guys feel stressed from nagging?

I like to work with driven and conscientious people. You can rely on them to come thru. When offspring genetic engineering becomes possible will people make their kids more conscientious than they are? Will the human race (optimistically assuming the robots don't take over) be much more conscientious a couple hundred years from now?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 April 28 11:31 PM  Aging Lifestyle Studies

Nick G said at April 29, 2009 2:55 PM:

"Why don't neurotic women cause their mates to live longer? "

Sad to say, I suspect that it's because women, on average, are more conscientious than men about health, diet, cleanliness etc.

1 )There's probably less difference between women who are more conscientious and those who are less conscientious, as groups. so,

2) If women are likely to be more conscientious than men, than even low-conscientious women will be more conscientious than their mate, and variation between women won't make a difference.

Another corollary: this might explain, at least in part, women's longer lifespans.

Nick G said at April 29, 2009 2:56 PM:

oops - the "so" in item #1 should be "and"

Erich said at April 29, 2009 4:32 PM:

As a regular reader, I'll report that my level of neuroticism borders on zero.

Randall Parker said at April 29, 2009 8:28 PM:

Nick G,

My guess is that the men resist the advice of their wives.

Micha Elyi said at April 30, 2009 2:17 PM:

This is another example of bad behavior from women, "nagging," is socially reconstructed into something that can be presented as good behavior, "conscientiousness." Such reconstruction avoids the cognitive dissonance that would occur if women's bad behavior were recognized for what it is as that recognition would conflict with the socially approved storyline of women=good, men=bad.

Ann said at April 30, 2009 3:17 PM:

I thought that the point was that nagging went with neurotic, but that conscientious is good all around.

pollardito said at April 30, 2009 4:41 PM:

So conscientious people have better health and more satisfying relationships, and neurotic people have the opposite. Men who have both traits increase their wife's lifespan, but they don't say if they increase it more or less than men who are only conscientious. Women who have both traits don't increase their husband's lifespan, but they don't say if women who are only conscientious increase it. It's hard to see if the two traits are working together, or if they are partially canceling each other out from the summary we're given. All we know is that the net positive of both traits in their mate is 0 for the husband and positive for the wife. Maybe conscientiousness is good for partners of both sexes, but a mate that's neurotic has more impact on a husband? I'm not sure that would be surprising to anyone.

As for the sexism of nagging, I think that nagging is being associated with being neurotic (a negative) and not being conscientious (a positive)

Anonymous said at May 1, 2009 4:01 AM:

Men can be stereotyped as hunter-engineers: focused to a fault, dexterous, bored easily, respond well to infrequent high reward stimuli.

Women can be stereotyped as mother-cooks: eager to implement, prefers the comfort of routine, deep patience, respond well to frequent low reward stimuli.

It's no wonder they fit together so well. It's also amazing that some cultures stigmatize these traits, as if recognizing them would be tantamount to declaring a class of people sub-human. Knowing oneself wouldn't have much profundity if oneself wasn't any different from others' selves, and marriage wouldn't be three tenths as fun.

bandit said at May 1, 2009 8:17 AM:

I could have saved you the nickel to figure out that nuerotic women aren't good for men's health.

Josh Reiter said at May 1, 2009 12:12 PM:

In other words if a man is an effeminate boob who doodles over his wife then she responds favorably -- go figure.

Randall Parker said at May 2, 2009 9:18 AM:

Josh Reiter,

Some of the neurotic guys are probably masculine alphas. Now that I think about it I'm curious to know whether neuroticism correlates positively or negatively with masculinity in males.

Brian H said at May 4, 2009 4:43 PM:

The article segues between neurotic and conscientious without a blink. Using Aristotelian Logic defeats this ploy. All neurotic people are not conscientious. All conscientious people are not neurotic.

Bad writing, worse thinking.

Brett said at May 5, 2009 7:02 AM:

*warning for broad generalizing for the sake of theorizing* --- Neurotic men may make the women more comfortable, with their (perhaps) more regular expression of emotion, or something along those lines that makes his (wife) more able to connect to him, in that way? Though perhaps men don't need the continual emotional expression as much as (again, generalizing) women, and if the woman is particularly neurotic, it may become more burdensome. In other words, maybe a partial explanation for that disjoint- "neuroticism" in his partner is detrimental, but neuroticism in hers facilitates her well-being...interesting

Michael Patrick said at May 13, 2009 6:08 AM:

I'm a bit confused..... conscientious and neurotic are not one in the same...... so which personality trait does what now?

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