Personality and Physical Functioning Among Older Adults: The Moderating Role of Education

CorrespondenceCorrespondence should be addressed to Yannick Stephan, EA 4556 EPSYLON, Laboratory Dynamic of Human Abilities and Health Behaviors, Department of Sport Sciences, Psychology and Medicine, University of Montpellier and St-Etienne, 4, Boulevard Henry IV, 34000 Montpellier, France. E-mail: .
The Journals of Gerontology Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences (Impact Factor: 3.21). 07/2013; 68(4):553-557. DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbs094
Source: PubMed


Drawing upon a vulnerability model, this study tested whether low educational level would amplify the negative contribution of risky personality traits, such as high neuroticism and low conscientiousness, on older adults physical functioning.

Five hundred and thirteen French-speaking community-dwelling older adults aged 60-91 years (mean age = 66.37, SD = 5.32) completed measures of physical functioning, education, personality traits, chronic conditions, and demographic variables.

Results revealed that extraversion and conscientiousness were positively associated with physical functioning, whereas neuroticism was a negative predictor, beyond demographics, chronic conditions, and education. The negative relationship between neuroticism and physical functioning was stronger among individuals with low educational level and was nonsignificant among older people with higher level of education.

This study is the first to support a vulnerability model, which entails an amplification of neuroticism risk at low education, but a diminishment of neuroticism risk for activity limitations at high education. As a whole, it appears that a focus on either personality or education without taking into account each other provides only a partial account of the predictors of basic daily physical activities in old age.

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    • "In the past decade, the FFT of personality has gained wide acceptance [19]. A vulnerability model indicated an increase in the risk of N in individuals with low educational level [20]. Higher levels of E and C may be associated with a reduced risk of disability in old age [21]. "
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