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Nicotine Tob Res. 2009 Jul;11(7):833-41. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntp073. Epub 2009 May 26.

Personality, psychiatric disorders, and smoking in middle-aged adults.

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  • 1Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Brown University, Box G-S121-5, Providence, RI 02912, USA.



A number of personality traits have been associated with cigarette smoking. Current smokers generally show higher levels of negative emotionality and lower levels of behavioral constraint than former smokers and those who never smoked. However, prior investigations have not examined thoroughly whether these smoking-personality associations are unique to smoking status or simply reflect the fact that these personality traits tend to be elevated across numerous forms of psychopathology. Likewise, prior studies have not addressed whether personality shows differential associations with smoking based on the presence or absence of lifetime psychiatric disorders.


The present study examined these questions using data from 472 current, 311 former, and 324 never-smokers aged 34-44 years.


Current smokers reported being more reactive to stress, more aggressive, more alienated, and less harm avoidant than both former smokers and never-smokers, whereas former smokers and never-smokers showed similar personality profiles overall. Psychiatric disorder history did not interact with smoking status in predicting personality. Controlling for differences in four major lifetime psychiatric disorders (major depression, alcohol dependence, drug dependence, and conduct disorder) reduced the differences in personality traits associated with smoking status. However, smoking status continued to relate uniquely and significantly to higher levels of negative emotionality and behavioral under control with the most robust effect observed for trait alienation.


These results provide the most comprehensive depiction to date of interrelations among personality, psychopathology, and smoking and suggest an important role of personality in smoking that is not redundant with or conditional upon lifetime psychopathology.

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