Extroverts crave human interaction. Introverts, on the other hand, could take it or leave it.
It stands to reason, then, that the COVID-19 social distancing directives are taking an especially high toll on the mental health of extroverts, right?
Not so fast, says new research conducted by the Virginia-based research consultancy, Greater Divide. If anything, introverts are suffering more than extroverts.
To arrive at this conclusion, the team at Greater Divide asked a representative sample of 1000 U.S. adults to complete a series of personality tests, including one that measured introversion/extroversion, and to indicate their level of agreement with the statement "COVID-19 has negatively affected my mental health." Interestingly, they found that introverts were more likely to experience mental health issues than extroverts.
This, of course, flies in the face of popular wisdom. Anyone active on social media has likely seen a few memes lamenting the plight of the extrovert in a world on lockdown. Jenn Granneman, author of The Secret Lives of Introverts , has posted quotes on Instagram such as, "Check on your introvert friends. If they are social distancing, they are not okay." Other extroverted social media users have said things like "Everything I want to do is now illegal" and "My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be."
Scientific research, however, offers some interesting clues as to why extroverts may be coping with the quarantine better than they are letting on. For one, numerous studies have shown extroverts to be more resilient in the face of psychological stressors. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Personality, for instance, found a strong positive relationship between extroversion and positivity. This relationship held true even when factoring out the effects of sociability. In other words, extroverts tend to be more positive than introverts for reasons other than their natural preference for social interaction .
There's another reason why extroverts might be faring better during quarantine, and that has to do with the size of their virtual networks. Research has found, not surprisingly, that extroverts tend to have more friends and connections on social media. "Rather than escaping from or compensating for their offline personality, online social network users appear to extend their offline personalities into the domains of online social networks," state the authors of the study. This makes it easier for extroverts to stay socially connected, even when stuck at home during the current crisis.
The team at Greater Divide also examined which other personality dimensions were correlated with mental health issues as a result of the quarantine. Using the Big Five personality structure as a basis for comparison, they found the personality dimensions of agreeableness and conscientiousness to predict increased psychological resiliency. Neuroticism, on the other hand, was associated with a greater likelihood of experiencing negative mental health effects.