Under the Weather: Personality Types’ Tendency to Get Sick
Legend has it that Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, never once fell ill. That he would routinely laugh in the face of illness during a time when diseases like yellow fever and tuberculosis ran rampant. He wrestled bears, he climbed mountains with his bare hands, and he even got shot in the chest once before a public appearance and just went ahead and gave his speech anyway. He was the embodiment of health and willpower.
At least that’s the legend that Theodore Roosevelt would’ve liked you to believe. In reality, he suffered from all sorts of ailments, many of which were brought on by his extreme commitment to leading what he called a “strenuous life.” Among other things, he was blind in one eye as a result of a boxing match, he broke his ribs numerous times from falling off his horse, he contracted a near-fatal fever while exploring a river in Brazil, and he suffered from chronic rheumatoid arthritis. Yet he refused to admit when he was ill and, by all accounts, whenever he was asked how he was feeling, Roosevelt would reply, “Never better!” – right up until the day he died.
Sometimes, there can be a big difference between how healthy we are and how healthy we perceive ourselves to be. Some people try to use the power of positive thinking (or even denial) to their advantage, much like Roosevelt, while others lean more toward hypochondria, always assuming that they have some medical condition.
While your personality type may not directly affect your health, your state of mind can, and certain personality traits may have more of an influence than you realize. To learn more about this, we asked our community if they agreed with the statement, “You tend to get sick more often than others.” Only about a quarter (24%) agreed overall, but the results illuminated some differences between traits:
Which personality types are channeling Theodore Roosevelt and which are using up their sick days? Let’s delve into the data below.
Diplomats and Analysts (29% and 28% agreeing)
The two Intuitive Roles, Diplomats and Analysts, topped the results – overall, Intuitive personality types were 9% more likely than Observant types to agree that they tend to get sick more often than others (29% vs. 20% agreeing). There may be a couple of reasons for this.
First, people with the Intuitive personality trait tend to have healthy imaginations, and for some, that may mean imagining the worst when it comes to their physical health. These individuals might have a habit, for instance, of taking to WebMD at the slightest sign of a cough or a rash and extrapolating any number of illnesses from it.
Another side effect of an Intuitive Nature is a tendency to get so wrapped up in your inner world that you become somewhat disconnected from what’s going on around you. It’s not uncommon, for instance, for Intuitive personalities to get so absorbed in a project that they forget to eat a meal or go to bed. In paying less attention to self-care, some Diplomats and Analysts may actually get sick more often than other people.
Two good examples of this are Turbulent Mediators (INFP-T) and Turbulent Architects (INTJ-T), who tied as the personality types most likely to agree with our statement (38% each). As seemingly different as dreamy, emotional Mediators and strategic, logical Architects may be, they are both private, independent, and sometimes overanalytical. They hesitate to reach out to others when they need help, which can make getting sick stressful. Turbulent Mediators and Architects feel even more stress, which can exasperate health issues – more on that in the Strategies section below.
Explorers and Sentinels (20% and 19%)
The two Observant Roles, Explorers and Sentinels, tend to be more practical and down-to-earth than their Intuitive counterparts and thus agreed at lower rates. Usually more concerned with day-to-day reality than with future possibilities, Explorers and Sentinels spend less energy worrying about getting sick or imagining worst-case scenarios. Recognizing that everyone gets sick sometimes, these personalities are more likely to do what they need to do in order to recover and move on as quickly as possible.
Explorer and Sentinel personalities may have slightly different reasons for this attitude. Explorers hate the idea of missing out on experiences because they’re stuck in bed with a flu or other illness. The desire to be out and about drives them to remain as healthy as they can. Sentinels, meanwhile, are loathe to back out of commitments they’ve made to their job, their family, and their community. Their reputation for reliability motivates them to take good care of themselves.
Of all the personality types, Assertive Entrepreneurs (ESTP-A) agreed with our statement the least (9%). Energetic adventure-seekers to the core, Entrepreneurs are likely to adopt an “I’m sure it’s nothing” sort of attitude to feeling sick, preferring to stay in the action and only slowing down to rest when absolutely necessary. It could be sheer force of will that keeps Assertive Entrepreneurs healthy – as in the example of Theodore Roosevelt, who was probably an Entrepreneur personality type – but if they’re not careful, this approach could be detrimental to their health in the long run.
Constant Improvement and Social Engagement (33% and 30% agreeing)
The most influential personality trait in this survey was the Turbulent Identity: Turbulent types were 17% more likely than Assertive types to agree that they tend to get sick more often than others (32% vs. 15%).
Turbulent Constant Improvers and Social Engagers are sensitive to stress, which has been proven to have negative effects on health. They’re also particularly hard workers, mainly because they’re perfectionists. If they’re working too hard or feeling too much stress without taking the time for self-care, it may be the case that these personalities actually do get sick more often than others. And when they get sick, they worry, which only compounds the issue.
Confident Individualism and People Mastery (17% and 14%)
As Assertive personalities, Confident Individualists and People Masters tend to be more confident in themselves and to live their lives in a more relaxed way, not pushing themselves as hard as their Turbulent counterparts do. They may feel more comfortable taking time when they need it to rest, either to prevent sickness or to get well after falling ill. Having more positive feelings about their health may help to promote better physical health.
We should also note that Introverts – Constant Improvers and Confident Individualists – were slightly more likely than Extraverts – Social Engagers and People Masters – to agree, probably because they are more inwardly focused and thus more aware when something feels off, whether physically or mentally. Extraverted personalities, on the other hand, may be more distracted by the outside world, paying less attention to their personal health. Socializing with others more frequently may also make Extraverts more cognizant of the fact that other people get sick just as much as they do.
Although everyone gets sick sometimes, our survey demonstrated that Turbulent, Introverted, and Intuitive personality types are more likely to feel that they get sick more often than other people. State of mind has a lot to do with this – active imaginations, a preference for solitude, and stress can make getting sick even worse.
Getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, and taking time out for mental health are all important to maintaining good physical health. And while it’s generally unwise to go to the extreme lengths of Theodore Roosevelt – claiming that you never get sick, insisting on risky behavior, and refusing to see a doctor when necessary – there is something to be learned from his example: keeping up a positive attitude can go a long way too.
What about you? Do you see yourself as robust and healthy or as someone who is prone to getting sick? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!