Making positive changes in personality may open the way to greater quantum of happiness than earning more money, marrying or gaining employment, a study has found. Chris Boyce, from the University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences, who led the study, said: “We found that our personalities can and do change over time – something that was considered improbable until now – and that these personality changes are strongly related to changes in our wellbeing.”
“Compared with external factors, such as a pay rise, getting married or finding employment, personality change is just as likely and contributes much more to improvements in our personal wellbeing,” said Boyce, the journal Social Indicators Research reports.
Previous studies have shown that personality accounts for up to 35 percent of individual differences in life satisfaction, compared to just four percent for income, four percent for employment status and between one and four percent for marital status.
Since earlier it was believed that our personalities were fixed, policies to improve wellbeing had focused on these lower-impacting external factors, according to a Manchester statement. ”Fostering the conditions where personality growth occurs – such as through positive schooling, communities and parenting – may be a more effective way of improving national wellbeing than GDP growth,” Boyce said.
Boyce, with Manchester colleague Alex Wood and the London School of Economic’s Nick Powdthavee, used a large data set of 7,500 individuals from Australia who had answered questions on their life satisfaction and personality at two time points four years apart.
Personality was measured using a well-validated personality questionnaire assessing five broad dimensions which cover the breadth of a person’s personality: openness-to-experiences, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
“Our research suggests that by focusing on who we are and how we relate to the world around us has the potential to unlock vast improvements in our wellbeing,” said Boyce.