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Big Five personality traits may inform public health policy and preventive medicine: Evidence from a cross-sectional and a prospective longitudinal epidemiologic study in a Swiss community


Hengartner, Michael P; Kawohl, Wolfram; Haker, Helene; Rössler, Wulf; Ajdacic-Gross, Vladeta (2016). Big Five personality traits may inform public health policy and preventive medicine: Evidence from a cross-sectional and a prospective longitudinal epidemiologic study in a Swiss community. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 84:44-51.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Some evidence documents the importance of personality assessments for health research and practise. However, no study has opted to test whether a short self-report personality inventory may comprehensively inform health policy. METHODS: Data were taken from a population-based epidemiologic survey in Zurich, Switzerland, conducted from 2010-2012. A short form of the Big Five Inventory was completed by n=1155 participants (54.4% women; mean age=29.6 years), while health-related outcomes were taken from a comprehensive semi-structured clinical interview. A convenience subsample averaging n=171 participants additionally provided laboratory measures and n=133 were subsequently followed-up at least once over a maximal period of 6 months. RESULTS: Personality traits, in particular high neuroticism and low conscientiousness, related significantly to poor environmental resources such as low social support (R(2)=0.071), health-impairing behaviours such as cannabis use (R(2)=0.071), and psychopathology, including negative affect (R(2)=0.269) and various mental disorders (R(2)=0.060-0.195). The proportion of total variance explained was R(2)=0.339 in persons with three or more mental disorders. Personality significantly related to some laboratory measures including total cholesterol (R(2)=0.095) and C-Reactive Protein (R(2)=0.062). Finally, personality prospectively predicted global psychopathological distress and vegetative symptoms over a 6-month observation period. CONCLUSIONS: Personality relates consistently to poor socio-environmental resources, health-impairing behaviours and psychopathology. We also found some evidence for an association with metabolic and immune functions that are assumed to influence health. A short personality inventory could provide valuable information for preventive medicine when used as a means to screen entire populations for distinct risk exposure, in particular with respect to psychopathology.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Some evidence documents the importance of personality assessments for health research and practise. However, no study has opted to test whether a short self-report personality inventory may comprehensively inform health policy. METHODS: Data were taken from a population-based epidemiologic survey in Zurich, Switzerland, conducted from 2010-2012. A short form of the Big Five Inventory was completed by n=1155 participants (54.4% women; mean age=29.6 years), while health-related outcomes were taken from a comprehensive semi-structured clinical interview. A convenience subsample averaging n=171 participants additionally provided laboratory measures and n=133 were subsequently followed-up at least once over a maximal period of 6 months. RESULTS: Personality traits, in particular high neuroticism and low conscientiousness, related significantly to poor environmental resources such as low social support (R(2)=0.071), health-impairing behaviours such as cannabis use (R(2)=0.071), and psychopathology, including negative affect (R(2)=0.269) and various mental disorders (R(2)=0.060-0.195). The proportion of total variance explained was R(2)=0.339 in persons with three or more mental disorders. Personality significantly related to some laboratory measures including total cholesterol (R(2)=0.095) and C-Reactive Protein (R(2)=0.062). Finally, personality prospectively predicted global psychopathological distress and vegetative symptoms over a 6-month observation period. CONCLUSIONS: Personality relates consistently to poor socio-environmental resources, health-impairing behaviours and psychopathology. We also found some evidence for an association with metabolic and immune functions that are assumed to influence health. A short personality inventory could provide valuable information for preventive medicine when used as a means to screen entire populations for distinct risk exposure, in particular with respect to psychopathology.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Engineering
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
610 Medicine & health
Uncontrolled Keywords:Big Five; Epidemiology; Personality; Preventive medicine; Psychopathology; Public health
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:13 Sep 2016 08:14
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 20:22
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0022-3999
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2016.03.012
PubMed ID:27095158

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