Getting and Staying Healthy YOUR Way – What the Science Says

In a previous blog “Can Your Personality Type Predispose You to Certain Health Risks…and Chronic Diseases?” I shared the results of a first-of-its-kind, original scientific study which showed that Personality Type is strongly correlated with certain health risk factors and may predict susceptibility to specific chronic illnesses.

The risk factors identified in that study were medication non-adherence, anxiety, depression, alcohol abuse, lack of exercise, poor nutrition and sleep issues.

The results were so compelling that my research partners from the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and I decided to do a follow-up study in which we surveyed 10,500 people as to which strategies they would be most likely to adopt to help them lose weight, get enough exercise, quit smoking, reduce alcohol usage, and manage stress. As a result, we were able to create 16 individualized wellness plans. 

We didn’t expect to find any surefire “silver bullet” strategies that all types endorsed. And we weren’t surprised to learn that for each of the health risks identified, there was often some overlap. (After all, there are only so many different ways to quit smoking). 

But true to type theory, the activities people identified as being the ones they’d be most likely to adopt had a lot to do with their personality types. In each of the main categories (to lose weight, get more exercise, etc.) we asked subjects to weigh in on several different activities. Here are some key findings.

To Lose Weight

Become more active: “EJs like to shake their booties.”

  • The two types with the highest scores were ENTJ and ENFJ, two of the most action-oriented, organized, and conscientious types. Both are also Extravert-Judgers.   
  • The types with the lowest scores were ISFJ, ISTP and ISFP with ISFJ the lowest. All are Introverts; three of the four are both Introverts and Feelers.

 Make healthier food choices: “ENs seem to have a heightened awareness.”

  • The three types with the highest scores were ENFJ, ENTJ and ENFP – all Extraverts and Intuitives, people who are more prone to trying new things.
  • The types with the lowest score were ISFP and other SPs who are among the most laid-back and casual of all types, and who tend not to worry about the future consequences of their present actions.

Eat smaller portions at meals: “Makes sense to extraverted folks.”

  • The four types who scored highest were all Extraverts (Es), with three of them also being Intuitives.    
  • The lowest score were SFPs – who self-reported in another part of this survey that they are the least self-disciplined of all the 16 types.

Create my own meal plan: “Intuition and Judging rule the day.”

  • The two highest types were ENTJ and ENFJ – both among the most energetic, organized, and achievement-oriented of the 16 types. 
  • The two types who scored lowest were both Experiencers: ISTP and ISFP.

 Cut down on snacks: “Aaargh!”

  • All types had similar scores except ENFJs who had the highest scores. This possibly is because ENFJs are disciplined and tend to be quite appearance-conscious, so they may have additional motivation to cut down on snacks in order to maintain or enhance their appearance.

To Get Adequate Exercise

Do more chores:  “Action and closure.”

  • The two personality types with the highest scores were ENTJ and ENFJ, which are among the most action-oriented, organized, and hard-working types.
  • The two types with the lowest scores were ISTP and ISFP. They both share the Experiencer (SP) temperament and are characterized as the most motivated by enjoyment of the moment, and who may be prone to procrastination – especially with arduous activities.

 Exercise by myself:  “Independent spirits.”

  • The two types with the highest scores were INTJ and INFJ, among the most reserved, independent, self-disciplined types.
  • The four types with the lowest score were the four Experiencers – ESTP, ISTP, ESFP and ISFP.  Experiencers are often drawn to action and excitement and may find exercising outside the presence of others solitary, isolating and boring.
  • Scoring lowest were ISFPs, known for their easy-going, laid-back approach to life.
  • Seven of the lowest scores were among Extraverts, which make sense since a hallmark of Extraversion is becoming energized by being with others.

 Stick to a predetermined schedule and establish a routine:  “Judgers, of course!”

  • The five types with the highest scores were all Judgers – people who are extremely goal-oriented and organized, and who like to make and stick with plans.
  • Not surprising, the eight types with the lowest scores were all Perceivers, people who prefer to live in a more casual, spontaneous way. 
  • All four of the Experiencer types (SPs) had the lowest scores. The probable explanation: Experiencers value the freedom to be in the moment and eschew rules, schedules and having structure imposed on them. 
  • Once again, the type with the highest score was ENTJ and the second lowest was ISFP, which are opposites.

Recreation: "I'm going to picture myself going to the gym today."

  • Overall, 50 percent of respondents reported that they would likely try “recreation” to increase exercise behavior (swimming, hiking, tennis, etc.). Interestingly, the six highest scores were all Intuitive types, with ENTJs the highest. 
  • The two lowest scores were for Sensors - ISFJ and ISFP.

Exercise with one or more friends: “With Extraverts - the more the merrier.”

  • Not surprisingly, Extraverts were much more positive about exercising with friends, which is predictable since Extraverts are energized by being with others.    
  • Conversely, the three types with the lowest scores were all Introverts, who typically enjoy sharing their own company.
  • Three of the four Idealists (Intuitive Feeling – NF types) had the highest score. For Idealists, relationships are paramount, so exercising with one or more friends can improve their health and continue to allow them to nurture and enjoy valued relationships.
  • The type with the lowest score was ISTJs – the least social, and typically, the least socially-oriented type.

Seek support from family or friends: “Feelers…who else?”

  • Four of the five types with the highest scores were Feelers, who by nature are sensitive and empathetic.
  • The two types with the lowest scores were ISTJ and ISTP – Introverted, Sensing Thinkers, who are among the least socially-oriented of the sixteen types.

To Quit Smoking

Quit “cold turkey:”  “NT’s love a challenge.”

  • The five types which had the highest scores included all four Conceptualizer (NT) types. This makes sense because they are success-oriented and relish difficult challenges.
  • The other type which scored high was ESTJ – the prototypical “manager” known for being responsible, organized and possessing great self-discipline.
  • The two types with the lowest scores were both Sensors.  
  • ENTJs had the highest scores, and ESFP had the lowest.

Financial Incentives: “Seeing opportunities.”

  • All four of the types with the highest scores were Extravert-Intuitives.
  • The two types with the lowest score were both Introvert-Sensors. This may reflect the fact that ENs are generally more open, aware of and responsive to opportunities presented to them than ISs.

Ask for support from family & friends: “Extraverts and Feelers, of course.”

  • The five types who scored highest were all Extraverts, and three were also Feelers. Among the highest scores were ENFJs, whose “dominant” trait is Feeling.
  • The lowest scores were both Introverted Thinking types. And the type with lowest score was ISTJ – typically among the least social of the sixteen types.

Use nicotine replacement therapy: “New and different? Count N’s in.”

  • Four of the highest scoring types were Intuitives, who are more likely to embrace new approaches, even if their efficacy has yet to be proven.
  • Three of the highest scores were Idealists (NFs).
  • Four of the five highest types were also Extraverts.  
  • The lowest score was for the very conservative ISTJs – the type least likely to try something that has not yet been proven effective.

Take natural remedies: “ENs: alternative treatment seekers.”

  • Of the five highest scores, all were Extraverts and four were Extravert-Intuitives.
  • All four of the lowest scoring types were Introvert-Sensors. The most likely explanation is that ENs are generally more aware of and open to trying new, untested approaches than ISs.

To Reduce Alcohol Usage

Create my own plan:  “Making stuff up, NT’s love it!

  • Of the four types scoring highest, all four are Intuitives, and three of the four Conceptualizers (Intuitives + Thinkers). This is not surprising since Intuitives, in general, tend to be creative and inventive.
  • The two lowest scores were both Experiencers (Sensor-Perceivers), and both Introverts. Experiencers, in general, and introverted Experiencers in particular, prefer much more concrete direction. 
  • Repeating an often-noticed pattern, scoring highest were ENTJs and lowest were ISFPs.

Quit "cold turkey:" “Thinkers can tough it out.”

  • Of the five highest scores, four were NTs, and the fifth was ESTJs - all people who are often quite stoic.   
  • The two types with the lowest scores were both Experiencers.
  • The type with the lowest score was ESFP – perhaps the most social, gregarious and fun-loving of the sixteen types.

Get support from family & friends: “NFs are right at home.”

  • Forty-nine percent reported that they would “get support from family and friends.”
  • Three of the four types with the highest scores were Intuitive Feelers (NFs).
  • In general, Feelers (Fs) are much more likely to seek support from others.
  • The only Thinking type (T) scoring above the mean was ENTJ – high-achieving type who often reports a willingness to try the most options in this and other categories.
  • Scoring lowest were INTPs, not surprising since they are often characterized as the most independent of the sixteen types.

Join an established group and enter a rehabilitation facility: “People who need people.”

  • The five types scoring highest for both were all Extraverts (Es).
  • Among the lowest scores were ISTJs and ISFJs.

To Reduce / Better Manage Stress

Listen to music: “Music soothes the savage beast.”

  • By far, the highest proportion of respondents selected “listening to music” as a very or extremely likely activity they would use.
  • The five types which were significantly higher were all Intuitives. This includes three of the four Idealist (Intuitive-Feeling) types.
  • Scoring highest were ENFPs and lowest were ISTJs.

Exercise: “Chop! Chop!...let’s get moving!”

  • Of the four types which rated this option highest, three were Intuitives (Ns), and all four were Judgers (Js) – characteristically disciplined and goal-oriented. 
  • Three of the four were also Extraverts (Es) – who tend to be more proactive than Introverts (I).
  • Three of the four types with the lowest scores were Experiencers (SPs), who consistently rate themselves as having the least self-discipline.
  • Highest scores were extremely goal-driven ENTJs; lowest were fun-loving ESTPs.

Rely on my inner self: “In my head is one of my favorite places to be.”

  • Of the five types with the highest scores, all five were Intuitives (Ns). This included all four Conceptualizer (NT) types, with the two introverted types – INTJ and INTP - having the highest scores.
  • The three types with the lowest scores were all Sensors – two of which were Introverts.
  • The types with the highest scores were INTJ and ENFJ; the lowest was ISTP.

Eat or drink specific foods or beverages: “Food, glorious food.”

  • Of the five types with the highest scores, all five are Extraverts, which may reflect Extraverts’ more adventurous spirit and proactive approach to life. 
  • The type with the highest score was the super-achieving ENTJs; the lowest was their opposite, the most laid-back ISFPs.

 Change my diet: “Hold the fries..”

  • The four types that scored highest were all Extraverts (Es), which may suggest a greater willingness to be proactive in order to reduce stress in their lives.
  • The type with the highest score was ENTJ; the lowest was ISFP.

 Take nutritional supplements: “Not proven? problem.”

  • The five types with the highest scores were ALL Extraverts (Es).  Four of the five were also Intuitives (Ns). The two lowest scores were Introverted-Sensors ISTJ and ISFP.

 Rely on a higher power: “For Thinkers, not so much.”

  • A little surprising: the highest scores were all E-Js: ESFJ, ENTJ and ENFJ.
  • Not so surprising were the types with the lowest scores: ISTJ, ISTP and INTP, two of which are dominant, Introverted-Thinkers.

Use spiritual disciplines such as prayer, confession, forgiveness, praise: “Taking action in the name of the Lord.”

  • The three types with the highest scores were all Extraverts and Judgers, with two of these three types (ESFJ and ENFJ) being dominant Feelers. 
  • This option gave examples such as prayer, confession, forgiveness, praise, all of which require the person to take action, which may account for the high scores for both Extraversion and Judging.
  • The three types with the lowest scores were all Introverted-Thinking types. Also, two of these three – ISTP and INTP - are dominant Thinkers.
  • Scoring highest was ENFJ, and lowest was ISTP, opposite on all four letters.

At the end of the day…

With 10,500 participants, this was a very large study. For the most part, the results were very consistent with Type Theory: Extraverts seek more external strategies while Introverts are more self-reliant. The more concrete Sensors are likely to adopt tried-and-true approaches and activities, while the more adventurous Intuitives need less proof. Thinkers are more independent and rely less on others, while Feelers’ benefit from support and the human touch. Judgers do better with structure and are more disciplined, while Perceivers are much less so.

Hopefully, this blog will help you discover strategies and activities that you may not have previously considered that can help you get and stay healthier…your way.


Dawn Geiger (not verified) says...

Like most people, I'm sure that when viewed or rated objectively; that is, by others, we'd come up with a very different view of ourselves than subjectively, or just one's own opinion.  The great fear of failure and a way to overcome it by capitalizing on our successes, doing what we are already capable of, before pushing on to the next step, was taught to me by real teachers.  A success story is a congratulations and reward in the making.   Instead of saying, I'll need more coffee, you could say, I've had three cups already.   I think I'll make more.

Dawn Geiger (not verified) says...

Then you could say, Would you like a cup of coffee?  

Dawn Geiger (not verified) says...

Then you could say, Would you like a cup of coffee?  

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