Looking for a partner? Well, then go for a mate who is conscientious and, perhaps, also neurotic.
Researchers report that having a conscientious partner may actually be good for one's health.
This study is the first large-scale analysis of what the authors call the "compensatory conscientiousness effect," the boost in health reported by those with conscientious spouses or romantic partners.
For the study, the researchers analyzed adults over age 50, and found that women, but not men, get an added health benefit when paired with someone who is conscientious and neurotic.
"Highly conscientious people are more organized and responsible and tend to follow through with their obligations, to be more impulse controlled and to follow rules," said University of Illinois psychology professor Brent Roberts, who led the study.
He added that highly neurotic people tend to be more moody and anxious, and to worry.
The researchers looked at the association of personality and self-reported health among more than 2,000 couples taking part in the Health and Retirement Study, a representative study of the U.S. population over age 50.
The study asked participants to rate their own levels of neuroticism and conscientiousness and to answer questions about the quality of their health.
Laos, the participants filled out a questionnaire that asked them whether or not a health problem limited their ability to engage in a range of activities such as jogging one block, climbing a flight of stairs, shopping, dressing or bathing.
The study reaffirmed previous findings that those who described themselves as highly conscientious reported better health and said they were more able to engage in a variety of physical activities than those who reported low conscientiousness.
However, for the first time, it was found that there was a significant, self-reported health benefit that accompanied marriage to a conscientious person, even among those who described themselves as highly conscientious.
"It appears that even if you are really highly conscientious, you can still benefit from a spouse's conscientiousness. It makes sense that regardless of what your attributes are, if you have people in your social network that have resources, such as conscientiousness, that can always help," said Roberts.
Surprisingly, the researchers found an added health benefit reported by women who were paired with highly conscientious men who were also highly neurotic.
The same benefit was not seen in men with highly conscientious and neurotic female partners.
Roberts said that while both men and women benefit from being paired with a conscientious mate, only the women saw a modest boost in their health from being with a man who was also neurotic.
"The effect here is not much larger than the effect of aspirin on cardiovascular health, which is a well-known small effect," he said.
The study appears this month in Psychological Science.