Individuals differ remarkably in the likelihood that they will maintain good health as they age, and much of this variation can be captured by the influence of personality on health over the lifespan. Our overarching aim for this competing renewal is to study associations between personality and health over the lifespan, and the mechanisms underlying these associations, in the Hawaii Personality and Health cohort. This multiethnic cohort provides a rare opportunity to investigate personality processes in relation to health. The study began over 50 years ago with personality assessments of the participants when they were elementary school children. Since 1998, we have located and recruited participants for questionnaire assessments of personality and many other psychosocial variables, and conducted an extensive baseline medical and psychological examination at mean age 50. We have demonstrated associations between childhood personality and subjective and objective health outcomes at midlife. In this next phase of the project the primary activity will b to conduct the first follow-up medical and psychological examination of our sample at mean age 60, approximately 10 years after the baseline examination, on all eligible participants (N = 572). Childhood personality and personality change (from childhood to adulthood, plus personality change in adulthood) will be used to predict physical health and cognitive function at mean age 60, and changes in physical health and cognitive functioning from mean age 50 to 60. Furthermore, we will examine the main mechanisms from health-psychology models to account for personality-health associations, and we shall do so uniquely in the context of a 5-decade longitudinal study. These mechanisms are based on cognitive (inhibitory control), biological (HPA axis), and behavioral (diet, exercise, tobacco and alcohol use, sun exposure) processes which have been hypothesized to underlie personality-health associations. We will examine social-integration (social support) processes in our integrative analyses of the Hawaii and Terman Life Cycle data. This project will generate evidence to guide personality based interventions, in particular by suggesting which traits and trait mechanisms are most relevant in childhood and at midlife (e.g., trait conscientiousness in elementary school, health-behavior mechanisms at midlife). In addition, this project addresses the gross under-representation of Asian-Americans and those of Native-Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander ancestry in health-related scientific research.

Public Health Relevance

There is potential to significantly impact public health by intervening to promote healthful personality traits and trait processes. The design of these interventions requires knowledge about the mechanisms by which traits influence health over the lifespan. This project will investigate these mechanisms in a longitudinal study that began with elementary school children over 50 years ago.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-N (90))
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Nielsen, Lisbeth
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Oregon Research Institute
United States
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Loehlin, John C; Goldberg, Lewis R (2014) How Much Is Personality Structure Affected If One or More Highest-Level Factors Are First Removed? A Sequential Factors Approach. Pers Individ Dif 70:176-182
Letzring, Tera D; Edmonds, Grant W; Hampson, Sarah E (2014) Personality Change at Mid-Life is Associated with Changes in Self-Rated Health: Evidence from the Hawaii Personality and Health Cohort. Pers Individ Dif 58:
Loehlin, John C; Goldberg, Lewis R (2014) Do Personality Traits Conform to Lists or Hierarchies? Pers Individ Dif 70:51-56
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Hampson, Sarah E (2012) Personality processes: mechanisms by which personality traits "get outside the skin". Annu Rev Psychol 63:315-39
Markowitz, Ezra M; Goldberg, Lewis R; Ashton, Michael C et al. (2012) Profiling the "pro-environmental individual": a personality perspective. J Pers 80:81-111

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