Personality and Lung Function in Older Adults.

TitlePersonality and Lung Function in Older Adults.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsTerracciano, A, Stephan, Y, Luchetti, M, Gonzalez-Rothi, R, Sutin, AR
JournalJ Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci
Date Published2017 Oct 01
ISSN Number1758-5368
KeywordsAged, Aged, 80 and over, Anxiety Disorders, Character, Disease Susceptibility, Dyspnea, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Health Behavior, Humans, Male, Medical History Taking, Middle Aged, Neuroticism, Peak Expiratory Flow Rate, Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive, Risk Factors

OBJECTIVES: Lung disease is a leading cause of disability and death among older adults. We examine whether personality traits are associated with lung function and shortness of breath (dyspnea) in a national cohort with and without chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

METHOD: Participants (N = 12,670) from the Health and Retirement Study were tested for peak expiratory flow (PEF) and completed measures of personality, health behaviors, and a medical history.

RESULTS: High neuroticism and low extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness were associated with lower PEF, and higher likelihood of COPD and dyspnea. Conscientiousness had the strongest and most consistent associations, including lower risk of PEF less than 80% of the predicted value (OR = 0.67; 0.62-0.73) and dyspnea (OR = 0.52; 0.47-0.57). Although attenuated, the associations remained significant when accounting for smoking, physical activity, and chronic diseases including cardiovascular and psychiatric disorders. The associations between personality and PEF or dyspnea were similar among those with or without COPD, suggesting that psychological links to lung function are not disease dependent. In longitudinal analyses, high neuroticism (β = -0.019) and low conscientiousness (β = 0.027) predicted steeper declines in PEF.

DISCUSSION: A vulnerable personality profile is common among individuals with limited lung function and COPD, predicts shortness of breath and worsening lung function.

User Guide Notes

Endnote Keywords

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/Conscientiousness/Conscientiousness/Lung function/Peak expiratory flow/Personality/Personality/Shortness of breath

Endnote ID


Alternate JournalJ Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci
Citation Key6519
PubMed ID26786321
PubMed Central IDPMC5926981
Grant ListR03 AG051960 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
U01 AG009740 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States