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Personality and risk of frailty: The English longitudinal study of ageing

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Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2016


Background: There is evidence that the personality traits conscientiousness, extraversion and neuroticism are associated with health behaviours and with risk of various health outcomes. We hypothesised that people who are lower in conscientiousness or extraversion or higher in neuroticism may be at greater risk of frailty in later life.
Methods: We used general linear models to examine the prospective relation between personality, assessed using the Midlife Development Inventory, and change in frailty, modelled by a frailty index, in 5314 men and women aged 60 to over 90 years from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
Results: Men and women with higher levels of neuroticism or lower levels of extraversion or conscientiousness had an increased frailty index score at follow-up. After adjustment for potential confounding or mediating variables, including frailty index score at baseline, the frailty index score at follow-up—which potentially ranges from 0 to 1—was higher by 0.035 (95% confidence interval 0.018, 0.052) for a standard deviation increase in neuroticism, and lower by 0.061 (0.031, 0.091) or 0.045 (0.020, 0.071) for a standard deviation increase in extraversion or conscientiousness respectively. There was some evidence that the association between extraversion and frailty may be due to reverse causation whereby poorer health affected responses to items in the personality inventory.
Conclusions: Higher levels of neuroticism or lower levels of conscientiousness or extraversion may be risk factors for the onset or progression of frailty. Future studies need to replicate these observations in other populations and explore the mechanisms underlying these associations.

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