Personality change can make you happy: study

Posted at 03/08/2012 7:16 PM | Updated as of 03/08/2012 7:18 PM

MANILA, Philippines – If a pay rise, marrying your partner or finding a job continues to elude you, worry not. A change in personality may help find you happiness instead, a new study shows.

A study conducted by psychologists from the University of Manchester and London School of Economics and Political Science has found that having considerable changes in personality is a real phenomenon, one that can lead to increased happiness.

The findings of the research, published in the journal “Social Indicators Research,” show that people do exhibit and become aware of changes in personality, and that this can help them improve their personal well-being.

“Our personalities can and do change over time – something that was considered improbable until now – and these personality changes are strongly related to changes in our well-being,” lead author Dr. Chris Boyce, from the University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences, said.

“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 well-being.”

The team of researchers looked into a data set of 7,500 individuals from Australia who answered questions on their life satisfaction and personality at two time points, four years apart.

Accounting for five different dimensions of personality – openness-to-experiences, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism – the researchers compared the two sets of data by noting the extent to which these five personality factors have changed per individual, and related this to the participants' current state of life satisfaction.

The researchers then drew a comparison between how such change in personality affected life satisfaction, and how external factors such as changes to income, changes to employment and changes to marital status affected the same.

This approach to studying happiness and well-being, Boyce said, has until their research been overlooked. Accounting for the reality of personality change has paved new ways to find happiness.

“The focus of many well-being studies in economics is on how changes to our circumstances, such as a higher income, getting married or a different job might influence our well-being. The influence of our personality is often ignored in these types of studies in the belief that our personality can’t or doesn’t change,” Boyce said.

“We show that personality can and does change and, not only is it more likely to change than an income increase, it contributes much more to changes in our well-being," he said. “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 well-being.”