A new study from the University of Texas at Austin has found that how a person decorates their living space can accurately pinpoint personality traits and the mood of the people who live there. The study found this is especially true as a person gets older.
For the study, researchers analyzed the living spaces of 286 people over the age of 65. They looked at photographs of rooms where the subjects spent most of their time and found certain personality traits were reflected in core elements of room decor.
Researchers believe applying these findings could help lead to happier lives, especially in older adults with cognitive impairment or frailty who have been transferred from their homes to long-term care facilities.
This first-of-its-kind study looked at characteristics of the room such as cleanliness, newness, and brightness. Participant’s personalities were analyzed, and photos were taken of the rooms where each person spent most of the time.
The study published in the journal Gerontologist found that extraversion was expressed in rooms with newer items and cheerful decor. Researchers believe this may come from a desire to make the room appealing to visiting friends and family.
Participants who were considered conscientious lived in places where orderliness and organization were crucial components. New items and comfort seemed to be most important.
Researchers were surprised to find the adults who had functional limitations had more clutter but had fewer symptoms of depression. They believe that clutter may represent an effort to exert control over the environment. They may also wish to keep items close at hand because of their mobility issues.
Researchers believe this study shows that older adults with physical limitations may benefit from a little help around the house. However, cleaning and maintenance should be done in collaboration. What looks like clutter to one person may be an arrangement that makes older adults feel more comfortable in their own homes.
This study helps to show that long-term care facilities should allow for greater freedom in room decor to help improve the mood of residents who lived there.
“People who have a match between personality and living space report better well-being, and they feel better about their life and have a better mood,” said Karen Fingerman, professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin and director of the Texas Aging and Longevity Center. “Home is where we can express ourselves.”