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Tension and coping ability are among the personality traits most highly associated with happiness

What makes people happy? Psychologist seriously began trying to answer this question in the 1970s by focusing on the role of demographic factors, such as variables like age and socioeconomic status. More recently, they have shifted most of their attention to the role of personality traits like extraversion (i.e., positive emotionality) and neuroticism (i.e., negative emotionality) as the primary determinant of happiness.

Kristina DeNeve, PhD, from the University of Utah recently reviewed the research findings on the relation between happiness and 137 personality traits. Two personality traits highly relevant to stress, tension and coping ability, were among the eight personality traits that were identified as those most highly associated with happiness. Tension refers to the tendency to experience negative emotions, for example, in response to a stressor. Coping ability, referred to specifically as hardiness in this review, refers to the tendency to cope positively with stressors. The other six personality traits of the eight were repressive-defensiveness (the tendency to avoid threatening information), trust, emotional stability, desire for control, extraversion, and locus of control-chance (the tendency to think that events occur by chance alone). Of all the personality traits examined, repressive-defensiveness was most highly associated with happiness.

Thus, regarding the relevance of stress for happiness, more happiness is related to having a personality characterized by coping positively with stressors and lacking feelings of tension in response to them

Source: DeNeve, K. M. (1999). Happy as an extraverted clam? The role of personality for subjective well-being. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 141-144.


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