Trinity Western University

2010 News

Death by perfection

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“I tend to be a perfectionist,” says the savvy applicant in response to a classic interview question, “What are your weaknesses?” Employers know perfectionists have high standards, are organized, and excel at their jobs. On the flip side, perfectionism can be aligned with neuroticism and considered a burden in the workplace. Is perfectionism ultimately considered an enviable personality trait?

"Perfectionism is a virtue to be extolled definitely," says Dr. Prem S. Fry, Ph.D., research professor at Trinity Western University. "But beyond a certain threshold, it backfires and becomes an impediment.” Fry recently spoke with at a symposium on perfectionism and health at the Association for Psychological Science convention in Boston.

In a study reported in an article published in the Journal of Health Psychology, Fry and colleague, Dominique L. Debats, University of Groningen, The Netherlands, followed four hundred and fifty participants over a period of six and a half years. Results demonstrated that those with high perfectionism scores ran a 51% increased risk of earlier death as compared to participants who had low perfectionism scores.

Participants with type 2 diabetes were the single instance that proved contrary to the study’s findings. For patients who followed a strict diet, paid attention to their blood sugar levels and worked hard to follow their doctor’s orders, perfectionism was a positive trait.

Fry’s findings were based on research funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Standard Research Grant that defined the mediators of quality of life for older adults. In an age when the population of adults over the age of 65 has increased exponentially, the results of Fry’s research are compelling. “Previous research doesn’t portray the elderly in a positive light,” says Fry, “We need to escape from the dark side of growing old and all the problems that follow.” Fry is interested in improving the quality of life for older adults so that, “they remain active, committed and involved at the end of their lives,” she says.

The study has been gaining public attention appearing in media worldwide including, Live Science, NY Daily News,, also popular magazines Glamour and Shape.

“I have a lot of data collected,” says Fry, “I need to go through a period of retraining now, to publish all the data I have.” Cambridge University Press is publishing the book she’s edited, New Frontiers in Resilient Aging, to be released September 2010. In an early review David Reid, York University, says, “This book will be cited far and wide as reflecting a turning point in how to view aging from progressive, enlightened ways, all supported by excellent scholarship.”

  • Last Updated on August 17th, 2010 at 3:16pm
  • Author: Jennifer Watton
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