Two sets of recent findings can tie together the areas of lifespan personality development and personality and health. First, certain personality traits predict mortality. Second, not only do traits have the capacity to change over the lifespan, but such change predicts mortality. In the last project period we have provided the foundation for such an integration of the areas of personality and health and personality development. In this competing renewal, we propose a number of studies that will lead to a more nuanced understanding of these phenomena. We request support for further data analyses within the Boston VA Normative Aging Study (NAS), as well as to obtain two more waves of longitudinal data and another measurement burst (daily experiences study). Recognizing that the NAS cohort is decreasing in size due to increased mortality, we are also requesting support to expand our studies to two other longitudinal studies that are slightly younger in age and which are more diverse: the Midlife in the U.S. Survey (MIDUS) and the Health &Activity Study of Central Illinois (HASCI). The latter is consistent with recent calls to simultaneously analyze multiple data sets to answer common research questions, in pursuit of cumulative science. We believe each of our aims are significant and have high health relevance, and in concert they will lead to enhanced knowledge of how personality and well-being, but also change in these constructs, can affect health and mortality. We will be guided by two specific aims: 1) To test an overarching conceptual model of the mechanisms that form conduits between personality and disease/mortality, and 2) to test how personality change influences illness and mortality, and to determine what are the intervening variables that explain this association.
It is important to understand the psychosocial factors that predict physical health and mortality over the adult lifespan and into the older years. In particular, we require more thorough knowledge on the mechanisms through which such psychosocial factors influence disease and mortality. Among the most promising psychosocial predictors of health and mortality are personality variables, but change in these constructs may prove as important for health as simple level.
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