【《We Chinese in AmericaMedia Editor Tang Zhao, October 11, 2022The pandemic may have altered adults’ personalities over time, according to new survey results.The pandemic may have altered adults’ personalities over time, according to new survey results. (Photo credit: Soroptimist International)

Adults became less extroverted, open, agreeable and conscientious during the pandemic, a new study found.

The results, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One, showed that the degree of change was roughly equivalent to a decade’s worth of average personality changes. Young adults in particular grew moodier, more emotional and more sensitive to stress in 2021 compared to years past, according to the study.

The researchers analyzed survey results from more than 7,100 U.S. adults from January 2021 to February 2022 and compared their responses to earlier in the pandemic — the period from March to December 2020 — as well as to responses from previous years.

The survey was based on the Big Five traits, a common way researchers evaluate personalities. Participants were scored according to their levels of neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

During the 2020 period, the responses were fairly consistent with those gathered before Covid emerged. But the researchers saw significant changes during the 2021-2022 period, suggesting that the collective stress of the pandemic affected people's dispositions over time.

Past research has already demonstrated that personalities can change as we age or develop new habits like exercising. Often as people get older, they become less neurotic, extroverted and open, but more agreeable and conscientious, said Angelina Sutin, the study’s lead author and a professor at Florida State University.

But from 2021 to 2022, adults ages 64 and under saw declines in extroversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Adults under 30 also saw an increase in neuroticism in that period, though other age groups did not.

"Becoming more mature is declining in neuroticism and increasing in agreeableness and conscientiousness, and we see the opposite for younger adults in the second year of the pandemic," Sutin said.

Adults above age 65, however, didn't see significant personality changes relative to pre-pandemic years.

"The older you get, the more of a sense of identity you have, the more entrenched you are in your social roles. You know more who you are, so things are going to affect you less in some ways," said Rodica Damian, an associate professor of social psychology at the University of Houston, who wasn't involved in the research.

William Revelle, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, pointed out that the observed personality changes could also stem, in part, from other social and political events happening during the time period studied.

“There was an election. There was a riot. There were major shootings and major protests,” said Revelle, who was also not involved in the study.

But he added that although it's impossible to separate those influences from the effects of the pandemic, "Covid was one of the major stressors hitting everyone — that was the main thing that kept people home."

(Source: CBS News)

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