Examining the relationship between changes in personality and depression in older adult cancer survivors.

TitleExamining the relationship between changes in personality and depression in older adult cancer survivors.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsChow, PI, Shaffer, KM, Lohman, MC, LeBaron, VT, Fortuna, KL, Ritterband, LM
JournalAging & Mental Health
ISSN Number1364-6915
KeywordsCancer, Chronic stressors, Depressive symptoms, Personality

OBJECTIVES: Despite widespread agreement that personality traits change across the lifespan into older adulthood, the association between changes in personality and depression among older adult cancer survivors is unknown. It was hypothesized that older adults with (vs. without) a past cancer diagnosis would experience an increase in neuroticism, and decreases in conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness, and extraversion, and that changes in these traits would mediate the relationship between receiving a cancer diagnosis and change in depression. Two hypotheses were tested in a cancer survivor sample. First, that increased chronic stressors and decreased physical health would mediate the link between personality change and increased depression. Second, that personality change would mediate the link between changes in chronic stressors/health and increased depression.

METHOD: Secondary data analysis utilizing three waves of data from the Health and Retirement Study. Data was compiled from 5,217 participants, among whom 707 received a cancer diagnosis.

RESULTS: Older adults with (vs. without) a cancer diagnosis decreased in conscientiousness, which was associated with increased depression. Among cancer survivors, worsening chronic stressors/health mediated many pathways between personality change and an increased depression. Increased neuroticism mediated the link between worsening health/chronic stressors and increased depression.

CONCLUSION: With the exception of conscientiousness, changes in personality did not mediate the link between cancer survivor status and depression. Among older adult cancer survivors, changes in personality traits may increase depression through worsening physical health and chronic stressors, potentially informing targeted interventions. Interventions that target increased neuroticism may be particularly useful in older adult cancer survivors.

Citation Key10057
PubMed ID30939904