Ronda Kaysen: Being a totally neurotic stress case is good for something after all. Apparently, it turns you into a virtual baby-making machine. Neurotic women have more babies than happy-go-lucky women. However, their babies are more likely to be malnourished and have a low BMI, according to a new study of women in Senegal.
The University of Sheffield researchers who performed the study defined neurotic women as those prone to anxiety, depression and moodiness. As it turns out, they're also more prone to procreate: The researchers found that they have 12 percent more kids than laid-back mamas do. These results might help explain why unpleasant traits like moodiness and anxiety have prevailed over the centuries.
The researchers also found that extroverted men had 14 percent more kids than introverts, which makes sense. Being able to chat a girl up definitely helps in the business of courtship. The men they studied had multiple wives.
"Our results show that personality predicts family size differently in men and women," Dr. Virpi Lummaa told Science Daily. "Gaining understanding of such individual-level determinants of reproductive decisions helps in the current debate on the role of individual versus social factors in explaining recent fertility changes around the world."
It's not clear why the women had unhealthier babies. It could be that it takes more resources to feed a larger family, and so the kids are more likely to be malnourished. Or it could be that stress could contribute to a low birthweight. Or maybe trying to feed lots of kids just makes you more prone to feeling neurotic and stressed out all the time.