Extra Cover

Published in Extra Cover

Insuring the Ego

How Population-Level Narcissism Shapes Public Health and Health Initiatives

Research has shown that population-level narcissism can play a crucial role in shaping effective public health outcomes and strategies, promising “to elevate the effectiveness of health initiatives by tailoring them to individual communities, fostering a more personalized and psychologically informed strategy in health promotion and insurance offerings.”

Imagine a world where public health initiatives are tailored to the very core of our personalities. A world where understanding traits like narcissism, often dismissed as simple arrogance and egotism, becomes a key to unlocking healthier communities. This article delves into recent research that highlights how population-level narcissism can play a crucial role in shaping effective public health outcomes and strategies.

Narcissism: A Potential Public Health Asset

Narcissism, commonly associated with arrogance and self-centered thinking, actually embodies a spectrum of traits that extend far beyond mere self-absorption. This complex personality trait also includes elements like ambition, confidence, and adaptability — qualities highly valued not just in the professional world. Our recent study reveals that the positive aspects of narcissism could significantly influence health behaviors and outcomes, suggesting a much more intricate relationship with public health than previously considered.
The main idea is simple. Narcissism drives individuals toward self-enhancement and meticulous attention to personal appearance and success. This drive can manifest in behaviors that align closely with health-conscious living, such as regular physical activity and mindful eating. In an era where obesity poses a significant societal health challenge, our findings hint at an intriguing possibility: more narcissistic populations may exhibit lower obesity rates, and perhaps even more positive societal health outcomes due to their proactive health behaviors.
Based on a large nationally representative sample of participants across 38 U.S. states, we found that states with higher average levels of narcissism exhibited significant positive health metrics. Specifically, these states reported lower obesity, suggesting a potential link between narcissistic traits and weight management behaviors. Furthermore, the prevalence of depression was notably lower in these states, pointing to the complex relationship between narcissistic traits, such as high self-esteem or resilience, and mental health. The analysis also revealed a lower incidence of deaths attributed to heart failure and hypertension, indicating a possible association between narcissism and heart health. However, these states also showed an increased demand for plastic surgery and a tendency towards shorter sleep durations, reflecting the trait's dual nature in health behaviors.

Implications for Public Health

Our research shows an exciting opportunity for public health strategies to leverage the complex characteristics of narcissism. Traits like ambition and the drive for self-improvement can encourage healthier choices. Yet, it's crucial for public health initiatives to strike a balance by also considering the less desirable traits of narcissism, such as a sense of entitlement, and working to minimize their negative effects. A tailored approach that respects cultural and demographic diversity is essential to ensure health programs are accessible and relevant to all. Additionally, while the immediate benefits of narcissism's positive traits are promising, we must be cautious not to overlook the potential downsides that could emerge over time.
Our study suggests a promising new direction for public health strategies, one that incorporates a deep understanding of personality psychology. By aligning health promotion efforts with the intrinsic motivations of population-level personality traits, public health initiatives could be much more engaging and effective. Specifically, fostering environments that reward both pro-social behaviors and offer self-improvement opportunities can channel the positive aspects of narcissism toward the common good. This approach necessitates ongoing research and flexible strategies to ensure that public health initiatives evolve in tandem with our growing understanding of personality and health.


Understanding the intricate role of narcissism in influencing health behaviors and outcomes invites us to weave psychological insights more deeply into the fabric of health and insurance sectors. This approach promises to elevate the effectiveness of health initiatives by tailoring them to individual communities, fostering a more personalized and psychologically informed strategy in health promotion and insurance offerings. The findings from this study chart a course toward health strategies that reflect the diverse nature of human personality, and possibly even a new era in public health and personal wellness. The real question then becomes: are we prepared to embrace all of our personality to foster healthier, more vibrant communities?


  • Gruda, D., Hanges, P., & McCleskey, J. (2024). Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Healthiest of them All - The Surprising Role of Narcissism in State-Level Health Outcomes. Journal of Research in Personality, 104465.
  • Gruda, D., & Hanges, P. (2023). Why We Follow Narcissistic Leaders. Harvard Business Review.
  • Gruda, D., Karanatsiou, D., Hanges, P., Golbeck, J., & Vakali, A. (2023). Don’t go chasing narcissists: A relational-based and multiverse perspective on leader narcissism and follower engagement using a machine learning approach. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 49(7), 1130-1147.
  • Gruda, D., McCleskey, J., Karanatsiou, D., & Vakali, A. (2021). I'm simply the best, better than all the rest: Narcissistic leaders and corporate fundraising success. Personality and Individual Differences, 168, 110317.


Jon Gruda

Jon Gruda

Associate Professor - Católica Porto Business School

PhD in Management, from Emlyon Business School, France.

PhD in Psychology, from Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Germany.

With a multidisciplinary background in psychology, neuroscience, and business, Jon Gruda explores the complex interplay between leadership and personality.

His research, utilising innovative methodologies and technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), has been featured in prominent academic and practitioner-oriented journals, including Personality and Individual Differences and Harvard Business Review