COVID-19 and College Students: Introverts Coped Better than Extroverts During Shutdown Interview with:

David C. Rettew, MD Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine

Dr. Rettew

David C. Rettew, MD
Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics
University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine What is the background for this study?

Response: Our group, the Wellness Environment Scientific Team at the University of Vermont, hadn’t planned to look at COVID at the outset of this study and instead were going to look at mental health and engagement in wellness activities in college students across a semester. The pandemic disrupted that plan when students were abruptly sent home but fortunately, they continued to do their daily app-based ratings of their mood, stress levels, and engagement in healthy activities.  We then realized we had some interesting pre-COVID to COVID data that was worth exploring. What are the main findings?

Response: Probably the most interesting finding in this study is that some personality traits that traditionally have not been associated with improved coping or resilience appeared to be somewhat protective for people during COVID. The pandemic is certainly a stressor for lots of people but it has some unique qualities that are different than other types of stressful events. On average, people who were more extraverted reported a decline in their mood as the pandemic wore on while more introverted individuals actually reported a slight rise in their mood.  It is possible that more introverted people were able to cope better with the decrease in social contact and mobility that many people have experienced. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Perhaps the biggest take away from this study is that we may need to take a more complex few of resilience.  Research tends to see both stress and resilience as fairly fixed constructs but our data suggests that as the characteristics of the stressful events change so may be some the factors that can promote resilience. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Understanding resilience is a really important topic, especially now, and we’d love to see more studies that try to map out what factors can help people overcome and even grow from specific stressful experiences so that we can help cultivate them. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: It may be worth pointing out that personality traits have long been shown to play a role in resilience but this study shows that some less well-known traits such as introversion can prove to be useful in specific situations.

It is also worth mentioning that the effects we found regarding personality traits predicting changes in mental health weren’t that large and that individuals who were higher in extraversion and lower in neuroticism tended to have better moods and lower stress levels in absolute terms.

Competing interests: Dr. Rettew receives royalties from Oxford University Press and Psychology Today and is a consultant to Happy Health, Inc. Dr. Hudziak is a consultant to Happy Health Inc.. The other authors report that no competing interests exist. These interests do not alter our adherence to PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials. There are no patents, products in development or marketed products associated with this research to declare.


Personality trait predictors of adjustment during the COVID pandemic among college students
David C. Rettew  ,Ellen W. McGinnis ,William Copeland , Hilary Y. Nardone ,Yang Bai ,Jeff Rettew , Vinay Devadenam ,James J. Hudziak
Published: March 17, 2021




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Last Updated on March 23, 2021 by Marie Benz MD FAAD