The More You Change…

How much do people change over 50 years?

By Gordon Waldman, published November 6, 2018 - last reviewed on January 1, 2019

Pressmaster/Shutterstock
Pressmaster/Shutterstock

One year from now, will you be the same person you are today? What about 10 years from now—or 50? Using data collected from a group of participants in 1960 (when they were in high school) and again in 2010, a recent study measured long-term stability and change in personality. At both points, 1,795 participants completed a self-reported personality inventory. On average, they increased in calmness, tidiness, and social sensitivity and became slightly less impulsive. Men reported greater growth in self-confidence, while women gained more in sensitivity.

Yet individuals' self-ratings relative to others remained fairly constant. "If you tend to be the funny or sociable person in a group of friends, you're probably still going to be that person 50 years later," says lead author Rodica Damian, a psychologist at the University of Houston. "But everyone in the group, on average, will likely have become a bit more stable."