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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2019 Feb;73(2):106-110. doi: 10.1136/jech-2018-211076. Epub 2018 Nov 20.

High school personality traits and 48-year all-cause mortality risk: results from a national sample of 26 845 baby boomers.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York, USA.
2
Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York, USA.
3
American Institute for Research, Washington DC, District of Columbia, USA.
4
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

It is unclear if adolescent personality predicts mortality into late life, independent of adolescent socioeconomic status (SES).

METHODS:

Over 26 000 members of Project Talent, a US population cohort of high school students, completed a survey including 10 personality scales and SES in 1960. Multi-source mortality follow-up obtained vital status data through an average 48-year period ending in 2009. Cox proportional hazard models examined the relative risk associated with personality traits, as well as confounding by both a measure of SES and by race/ethnicity.

RESULTS:

Adjusted for sex and grade, higher levels of vigour, calm, culture, maturity and social sensitivity in high school were associated with reduced mortality risk (HRs=0.92 to. 96), while higher levels of impulsivity were associated with greater mortality risk. Further adjustment for SES and school racial/ethnic composition mildly attenuated (eg, 12%), but did not eliminate these associations. Final HRs for a 1 SD change in personality traits were similar to that for a 1 SD change in SES.

CONCLUSIONS:

Adaptive personality traits in high school are associated with all-cause mortality in the USA as far into the future as the seventh decade, and to a degree similar to high school socioeconomic disadvantage.

KEYWORDS:

all-cause mortality; life course epidemiology; personality traits; project talent

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