Is your personality shaped by your gut bacteria? Study suggests sociable people have more diverse microbiome

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Image: Andrew Rae

A new study from Oxford University, published in the journal Human Microbiome, has linked gut bacteria strains and diversity with people’s personalities.

That might seem outlandish; after all, our personalities define us. As researcher Katerina Johnson writes, they “shape our world”, permeating relationships, hobbies, behaviours, social interactions, working life and how we cope with stressors.

But as links have been found between gut bacteria and autism – a condition typified by impaired social function – and other psychiatric conditions, Johnson thought it was plausible to explore whether they vary with human personalities more generally.

To investigate a possible link with personality more broadly, the new study analysed faecal samples from more than 600 people– mostly from North America – along with personality, health and lifestyle, diet and sociodemographic information.

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Controlling for these confounding factors, results showed that more sociable people had greater gut microbiome diversity, while those with higher anxiety or stress had less.

Although many more questions remain, she notes that the study adds another dimension to the impact of bacteria-depleting lifestyles, that include stress, unhealthy diets, excessive sanitation and antibiotics, on health and wellbeing.

“Our modern-day living may provide a perfect storm for dysbiosis of the gut”, she says.

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