A Study Reveals That People’s Personalities Changed During the Covid Pandemic

A new study found that the Covid-19 epidemic caused nearly a decade’s worth of personality change in American adults in just two years.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE on Wednesday, discovered drops in extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness among adults, with the most drastic shifts seen in persons under 30.

According to the study, previous research has revealed that personalities are relatively impervious to changes following collective stressful situations such as natural catastrophes, but Covid-19 appears to be an exception.

“We know that personality is relatively consistent,” Angelina Sutin, the study’s principal author, and a psychologist at Florida State University tells. “It can and does alter, but not much. With the epidemic, there was a truly unprecedented opportunity to investigate how this accumulated stressor affected personality.”

Still, the study had several flaws, according to Brent Roberts, a psychologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who was not involved in the study, to CNN’s Madeline Holcombe. According to the magazine, there was no control group of people who had not experienced the pandemic, and other causes were not explored, making it difficult to determine whether these personality changes were directly induced by Covid-19.

The researchers examined data from 7,109 persons in the United States using the Big Five personality traits of neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. According to the study, the participants, aged 18 to 109, performed numerous personality tests measuring these attributes before and throughout the pandemic.

Personality qualities remained largely constant with pre-pandemic surveys in the first, “acute” phase of Covid-19, described by the researchers as the period from March 2020 to December 2020, with only neuroticism marginally reducing.

There were no overall shifts in neuroticism relative to pre-pandemic levels by the second phase of the pandemic, described as the “adaptation” period from January 2021 to February 2022, but adults had become less extroverted, open, pleasant, and conscientious, according to the study.

According to the study, younger persons’ personalities altered the most, whereas the oldest group of participants experienced no significant changes in their personality traits.

“The more of an identity you have, the more entrenched you are in your social positions,” Rodica Damian, a psychologist at the University of Houston who was not part of the study, tells NBC’s, Aria Bendix. “Because you know more about yourself, things will influence you less in some respects.”

According to Damian, the most profound personality changes typically occur among adults aged 18 to 25, because this is when people take on new roles and transfer into education or the workforce.

Although no other age group experienced a rise in neuroticism during the pandemic’s second phase, adults under 30 did. The findings emphasize the pandemic’s influence on the mental health of young adults.

“This cohort would be more prone to mental and physical health problems because of the increased neuroticism and decreased conscientiousness,” Roberts tells CNN. “However, given the small impact sizes, these effects would be too subtle to observe at the individual level and would more likely be seen in aggregate, population-level analyses like those conducted by epidemiologists.”

Sutin tells Fortune that, in addition to the emotional effects of Covid-19, the influence of systemic racism throughout the pandemic and the global demonstrations in the reaction may be visible in how personality traits have evolved.

Although personality does not directly influence mental health, Sutin is asking for greater research into the effects of pandemic-related personality changes on well-being, particularly among young individuals.

“We need to do everything we can to help younger folks make better transitions into adulthood and lessen the stress that they endure in order to help enhance their mental health and long-term results,” Sutin tells the journal.

The research article was posted online on Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.

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