Baby Boomers are more 'hypersensitive' than millennials, new research on narcissism suggests

The research found that in general narcissism lowers with age [Photo: Getty]
The research found that in general narcissism lowers with age [Photo: Getty]

Contrary to what we’ve been lead to believe, baby boomers could actually be more sensitive than millennials, new research on narcissism has suggested.

The study, published in the journal Psychology and Ageing, analysed how narcissistic behaviour changes over time and by generation.

Researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) surveyed a sample of nearly 750 people to see how narcissism changed from age 13 to 77.

The findings revealed that while generally speaking people tend to become less narcissistic as they get older, later-born participants tended to be lower in hypersensitivity and higher in autonomy than their earlier-born counterparts.

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The research team found that certain qualities associated with narcissism, such as being full of yourself, being sensitive to criticism, and imposing your opinion on others, decline “over time and with age”.

But, they also discovered that narcissism levels varied by generational groups, with older generations found to be more sensitive overall.

“There’s a narrative in our culture that generations are getting more and more narcissistic, but no one has ever looked at it throughout generations or how it varies with age at the same time,” William Chopik, co-author of the study and associate professor at MSU told Science Daily.

Study authors explained that some of the narcissistic traits people display when they are younger, such as stubbornness, authoritativeness and hypersensitivity/defensiveness, become more dumbed down as people tick off certain life goals such as getting a job and starting a family.

They believe this prompts individuals to start to consider others and what’s going on around them.

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Are baby boomers more narcissistic? [Photo: Getty]
Are baby boomers more narcissistic? [Photo: Getty]

The team also discovered that younger generations, including millennials, actually start off in life with a lower degree of hypersensitivity than their older counterparts.

This could explain why as they get older they find themselves less prone to getting “triggered” than the older generation would have at the same age.

“One of the most surprising findings was that, also contrary to what many people think, individuals who were born earlier in the century started off with higher levels of hypersensitivity, or the type of narcissism where people are full of themselves, as well as wilfulness, which is the tendency to impose opinions on others,” Chopik continued.

“There isn't much data on older generations, but now that Baby Boomers are ageing into that phase of life, it's a huge part of the population that we need to be looking at.”

The research team now hopes their findings might encourage a better understanding of the various different types of narcissism, as well kicking off further studies into the character traits of the understudied older generation.

The news comes as further research released earlier this year found that young adults become “distressed” by labels such as “entitled” and “narcissistic” and don’t like being described as more self-centred or oversensitive than their older counterparts.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS One, suggest that all age groups - including millennials and Generation Z themselves - believe that they are the most narcissistic and entitled.

But researchers say that millennials and Generation Z dislike the 'snowflake' characterisation, and believe it less than older generations do.