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Nicotine Tob Res. Mar 2007; 9(3): 397–404.
PMCID: PMC3159393

Personality and Smoking Status: A Longitudinal Analysis

Abstract

We attempted to clarify the strength and nature of the association between personality and smoking status in early and middle adulthood, using a longitudinal study design. Data from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, based on a stratified sample of all single, legitimate births occurring in England, Wales, and Scotland in one week of March 1946 (N=5,362), were analyzed using generalized estimating equations methods to account for the correlation between the smoking status variables for the same individual over time. The unadjusted estimates indicated that the odds of being a current smoker increased with higher personality score for both extraversion (p<.0001) and neuroticism (p<.0001) traits. Sex was significantly associated with being a current smoker (p<.0001), with males more likely than females to be current smokers. Current smoking decreased with increasing age (p<.0001). These relationships were maintained in the fully adjusted model. These data indicate that both higher levels of extraversion and higher levels of neuroticism, as measured at age 16, are independently associated with an increased likelihood of subsequently being a current smoker rather than a nonsmoker at all time points, although the observed effect sizes were small. Males also were more likely than females to be current smokers, and increasing age reduced the likelihood of being a current smoker, which is consistent with an attempt by a subset of smokers in the cohort to subsequently stop smoking.

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