Personality Traits Predict BMI Changes Across Adulthood

Low agreeableness, impulsivity-related traits associated with greater adulthood BMI increase

MONDAY, July 25 (HealthDay News) -- Certain personality traits are predictors for changes in body mass index (BMI) across adulthood, but changes in those traits are mainly unrelated to BMI changes, according to a study published online July 11 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Angelina R. Sutin, Ph.D., from the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, and colleagues examined the association of personality traits with changes in BMI across the adult lifespan. Data from 1,988 individuals from a large longitudinal study spanning more than 50 years were analyzed. The BMI trajectory across adulthood was modelled using 14,531 anthropometric assessments to determine if personality predicted the rate of change.

The authors identified higher BMI in individuals who scored higher on neuroticism or extraversion or lower on conscientiousness, and these associations remained constant across body fat, waist, and hip circumference. Individuals who scored in the top 10 percent of impulsivity weighed an average of 11 kg more than those in the bottom 10 percent, making this the strongest association. Weight fluctuations measured as variability in weight over time were found to be associated with high neuroticism and low conscientiousness, together with the facets of these traits related to difficulty with impulse control. A greater increase in BMI across the adult lifespan was predicted by low agreeableness and the presence of impulsivity-related traits. A change in personality traits was for the most part unrelated to BMI.

"Personality traits are defined by cognitive, emotional, and behavioral patterns that likely contribute to unhealthy weight and difficulties with weight management," the authors write.

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