I read an interesting New York Times opinion piece earlier this week about whether a personality test could, in the words of the headline, improve your health. Obviously, given my profession and my interest in the merits and demerits of personality tests, I had to click.
The piece suggested personality tests can help people be healthier, really in two ways:
- As a shortcut to understanding behaviors. Certain personality types may indicate certain behavior patterns. Examples given are that introverts may benefit from their alone time by limiting exposure to germs, or that conscientious people are more likely to follow recommendations and guidelines like wearing seat belts.
- More importantly to me, as a way to understand what types of interventions and behavior change may be compatible with your own preferences and strengths.
There were other interesting points about how personality changes across the lifespan may impact health behaviors, and how physicians and coaches might use information about patient personality to more effectively counsel healthy behaviors. The article is worth a read.
Just keep the grain of salt in mind: The personality test does not make people healthier. It gives them tools and knowledge they can use to work on health with behavior change.