Losses endured and social isolation during Covid might have altered people’s personalities, study says

A research published in the journal Plos One has pointed out that Covid might have had such an impact on people that it altered their personalities. The losses endured during the pandemic or simply the long grind of social isolation appears to have led to the issue. “Younger adults became moodier and more prone to stress, less cooperative and trusting, and less restrained and responsible,” according to the authors of the study, led by Prof Angelina Sutin of Florida State University College of Medicine.

Personality assessments of over 7,000 people, aged 18 to 109, were done at various times before and during the pandemic. Participants were given a widely used personality test that measures five traits – neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

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During the first phase of the pandemic (March to December 2020), personality of the participants was found to be relatively stable. Only a small decline was seen in neuroticism compared with pre-pandemic. Covid induced feelings of anxiety and made it less likely for people to blame their own disposition, the authors suggested.

The reduction was found to have disappeared by the second half of the pandemic (2021-2022) and was replaced by declines in extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Younger adults showed the biggest changes and the oldest group of adults had no significant changes in traits.

“Although the pandemic was stressful for everyone, it disrupted the normative tasks of younger adulthood, such as school and the transition into the workforce and being sociable and developing relationships,” said Sutin.

The researchers will continue to study whether the changes are temporary or last for a longer time.

(With inputs from agencies)