Personality Factors and Stress

The Type A personality. Two California cardiologists, Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, observed differences in patterns of behavior of their cardiac patients, differences they related to types of cardiac problems. One group was identified as possessing a Type A behavior pattern, which is characterized by excessively competitive, hard‐driven, achievement‐oriented, impatient, and sometimes hostile behaviors. The Type A individual is described as being easily aroused, very concerned over wasting time, and often angry. Beginning in the 1980s, health care professionals sought to identify these individuals in order to intervene and prevent the development of coronary problems. Subsequent studies, however, have not universally supported the concept, and researchers argue that more research is needed in order to correctly identify these coronary‐disease‐prone individuals.

Hardiness. A personality factor called hardiness was also identified in psychological studies of health issues. Over time, male business executives were studied, and those in the group who most adequately survived stressful events were said to have a hardy personality style and to be characterized by

  • commitment: devotion to jobs, families, and other valued activities

  • control: a sense of personal mastery over their activities and lives

  • challenge: a perception of life events as challenging (not threatening) and as an opportunity to test themselves

Other studies have found that while commitment and control are associated with good health, challenge is not always necessary. However, feeling helpless (that is, not in control) and being uncommitted have themselves been found to be stressful conditions, and people with an optimistic outlook on life have been found to be healthier.