Today is World No Tobacco Day! Let’s celebrate with some scientific research that gives you yet another reason to not smoke.
Although smoking rates have fallen over the past decades, in recent years this trend has slowed down. Still, with killing nearly six million people each year, smoking continues to be the main preventable cause of death.
Personality and peer pressure
Studying the habit, economic literature has traditionally focused on price, taxation, and addiction as determinants. But nowadays more attention is being paid to other variables, such as social interactions and personality. Hans Kippersluis, Associate Professor in Health Economics at Erasmus School of Economics, for example, conducted research on how personality traits influence peer pressure when it comes to smoking. It’s a fact that if your peers smoke, you have a bigger chance to start smoking as well. But are individuals with stronger personalities less vulnerable to peer pressure? That’s what he wanted to find out.
The most widely accepted taxonomy of personality is the so-called Big Five, which talks about five basic personality traits.
1. Openness to experience: the degree to which you need intellectual stimulation, change, and variety.
2. Conscientiousness: the degree to which you are willing to comply with conventional rules, norms, and standards.
3. Extraversion: the degree to which you need attention and social interaction.
4. Agreeableness: the degree to which you need pleasant and harmonious relations with others.
5. Emotional stability or Neuroticism: the degree to which you experience the world as threatening and beyond your control.
There is a lot of evidence that personality traits such as conscientiousness and emotional stability are linked to healthy behaviour and health. And what Kippersluis showed, is that people who are emotionally unstable – who have ‘weaker’ personalities – are more vulnerable to peer pressure. Non-smokers, in other words, have stronger personalities. Well, if you did not quit by now, maybe this knowledge motivates you.
Want to find out how strong your personality is? There are plenty of free tests on the internet.