Personality Measures in Young Patients Predict Later Health

Personality ratings useful regardless of differences in level of acquaintance of informant

TUESDAY, March 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Personality measurements can be useful tools in predicting which young adult patients will have poor health in middle age, according to a study published in the March issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Salomon Israel, Ph.D., from Duke University in Durham, N.C., and colleagues evaluated a cohort of 1,000 individuals from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study to determine whether brief observer reports of young adults' personality traits could predict which individuals would be at greater risk for poor health as they entered midlife.

The researchers found that very brief measures of young adults' personalities predicted their midlife physical health across multiple domains, including metabolic abnormalities, cardiorespiratory fitness, pulmonary function, periodontal disease, and systemic inflammation. Participants with low scores on the Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience went on to develop poorer health even after adjusting for differences in sociodemographic and health factors. Predictions of health decline from young adulthood to midlife were possible both from personality ratings from peer informants who knew participants well and from a nurse and receptionist who had just met participants for the first time.

"Personality traits can be measured cheaply, easily, and reliably, and these traits are stable over many years and have far-ranging effects on health," Israel said in a statement. "Our findings suggest that in addition to considering 'what' a patient has among risks for chronic age-related diseases, physicians can benefit from knowing 'who' the patient is in terms of personality in order to design effective preventive health care."

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