Do health behaviors explain the effect of neuroticism on mortality? Longitudinal findings from the VA Normative Aging Study

Purdue University, Department of Child Development and Family Studies, 1200 W. State St., West Lafayette, IN, 47907, United States
Journal of Research in Personality (Impact Factor: 2). 08/2009; 43(4):653-659. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2009.03.016


Studies have shown that higher levels of neuroticism are associated with greater risk of mortality. Yet what accounts for this association? One major theoretical position holds that persons higher in neuroticism engage in poorer health behaviors, such as smoking and excessive drinking, thus leading to earlier death. We tested this hypothesis using 30-year mortality in 1788 men from the VA Normative Aging Study. Using proportional hazards (Cox) models we found that one health behavior, smoking, attenuated the effect of neuroticism on mortality by 40%. However, 60% remained unexplained, suggesting that the effects of other pathways (e.g., biological) also influence the relationship between neuroticism and mortality.

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    • "Mortality has also been examined in relation to two other enduring personality models: the Eysenck Personality Inventory (EPI,) and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). Two follow-ups of EPI domains (extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism), one of patients (Mroczek et al., 2009) and two of the general population (Ploubidis & Grundy, 2009; Shipley et al., 2007), showed a significant risk associated with neuroticism. "
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    ABSTRACT: Objective To examine the associations between personality traits, measured as Murray’s psychological needs, and mortality over 41 years. Method We used a general population sample aged 18–65 (n = 1094) examined in 1970 according to the Cesarec-Marke Personality Schedule (eleven traits) linked to mortality data. Internal associations were examined using factor analysis, and their associations with mortality using Cox proportional hazard regression models. Results During follow-up, 513 persons died. In men aged 26–45, achievement and affiliation predicted increased mortality: HR = 1.19, 95% CI 1.04–1.36 and HR = 1.16, 95% CI 1.01–1.33 per step on a stanine scale. In men aged 18–25, nurturance was protective: HR = 0.77, 95% CI, 0.64–0.98 per stanine. In women aged 18–25, feelings of guilt increased the risk of mortality, while dominance was protective: HR = 1.38, 95% CI 1.09–1.75, and HR = 0.74, 95% CI 0.55–0.99 per stanine, respectively. In women aged 46–65, exhibition increased the risk of mortality: HR = 1.09, 95% CI, 1.00–1.18 per stanine. There were no significant associations when all age groups were combined. Conclusions Personality traits, measured as Murray’s needs, associated with mortality, but the differed according to age at assessment and sex.
    Personality and Individual Differences 10/2014; 68:32–36. DOI:10.1016/j.paid.2014.04.002 · 1.95 Impact Factor
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    • "Past research shows that dispositions or personality traits are often associated with health outcomes. For example, alexithymia (difficulty in identifying feelings) and neuroticism have been associated with poor health (Mattila et al., 2009; Mroczek, Spiro, & Turiano, 2009) whereas positive affectivity has been associated with good health (Pettit, Kline, Gencoz, Gencoz, & Joiner Jr, 2001). Health regulatory focus may turn out to be another important individual difference variable because it seems to be correlated with various health behaviors. "
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    ABSTRACT: This research presents a new scale, the health regulatory focus scale, which measures an individual's tendency to use promotion or prevention strategies in the pursuit of health goals. We conducted five studies in France to develop the scale which is made up of two subscales for prevention and promotion. We also tested the scale's psychometric properties and demonstrated its two-factor dimensionality, internal and test–retest reliability, and convergent, nomological, predictive and discriminant validity. The health subscales showed good predictive validity in that they correlated with health behaviors better than the general regulatory focus subscales. For instance, health promotion focus predicted dentist visits while general promotion focus did not, and health prevention focus predicted the use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs while general prevention focus did not. Also as expected, general prevention focus predicted avoidance of risky vacation behaviors while health prevention focus did not. The health subscales either did not correlate or correlated weakly with positive and negative affectivity and general risk aversion indicating good discriminant validity. The one-year test–retest reliabilities were adequate for both subscales.
    Journal of Consumer Psychology 10/2013; 23(4):451–463. DOI:10.1016/j.jcps.2013.02.001 · 1.71 Impact Factor
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    • "Our results are also in concordance with two cross-sectional studies linking personality traits, hostility (Brydon et al. 2011) and pessimism (O'Donovan et al. 2009), to shorter TL. As mentioned earlier, both neuroticism (Shipley et al. 2007; Mroczek et al. 2009) and telomere attrition (Cawthon et al. 2003; Honig et al. 2006) are associated with increased all-cause mortality and various diseases of aging. Two mutually non-exclusive explanations for the entanglement of neuroticism, TL and somatic diseases and increased mortality can be offered. "
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    ABSTRACT: Telomere attrition, causing accelerated aging, might be one of the mechanisms through which neuroticism leads to somatic disease and increased all-cause mortality. In the current study we investigated whether neuroticism is prospectively associated with shorter telomere length (TL), a biological marker of aging. Method Participants were 3432 adults (mean age 52.9 years, range 32-79). Data were collected at baseline (T1) and at two follow-up visits after 4 years (T2) and 6 years (T3). Neuroticism was assessed using the 12-item neuroticism scale of the Revised Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ-R) at T2 and T3. TL was measured by a monochrome multiplex quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay at T1, T2 and T3. A linear mixed model was used to assess whether neuroticism could predict TL prospectively after adjusting for age, sex, body mass index (BMI), frequency of sports, smoking status, presence of chronic diseases and level of education. Neuroticism was a significant negative predictor of TL at follow-up (B = -0.004, p = 0.044) after adjusting for sex, age, baseline TL and various biological and lifestyle factors. High neuroticism is significantly and prospectively associated with telomere attrition independent of lifestyle and other risk factors.
    Psychological Medicine 07/2013; 44(4):1-7. DOI:10.1017/S0033291713001657 · 5.94 Impact Factor
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