Ever meet somebody and tell them you’re into sauna to which they respond, “I just don’t like to sweat.” Ever wonder what that’s all about? Ever wonder if their dislike of sweating reflects their uptight, neurotic personality style?
Recent research supports that those with higher neurotic personality traits have greater difficulty coping with heat stress (LeBlanc, Ducharme, Pasto, & Tompson, 2003).
LeBlanc, Ducharme, Pasto, and Tompson (2003) investigated the relationship of personality traits to people’s responses to warm and cold environments with 20 young healthy adults. The personality measure used was the Big Five Personality Inventory. Higher scores on each of the five scales are related to higher self-reported levels of Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness.
For both the cold and the hot environments, the researchers found that people who scored high for Neuroticism (tendency to be anxious, fearful, sensitive, & self-critical) had both a higher discomfort rate and a lower autonomic nervous system (ANS) response.
In other words, when in the cold environment (10º C) they reported it to be highly uncomfortable and shivered less than normals. In the hot environment (40º C), they found it highly uncomfortable and sweated less.
So now the big question is: Do people with more stabile personalities gravitate toward sauna or does sauna help promote a more solid personality? My guess is it’s a little of both.
LeBlanc, J. Ducharme, M.B., Pasto, L. and Thompson, M. (2003). Response to thermal stress and personality. Physiology and Behavior, 80, (1) 69-74.