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Grant Abstract: Personality and Health - A Longitudinal Study

Grant Number: 5R01AG020048-18
PI Name: Hampson
Project Title: Personality and Health - A Longitudinal Study

Abstract: Individuals differ remarkably in the likelihood that they will maintain good health as they age, and much of this variation can be captured by the influence of personality on health over the lifespan. Our overarching aim for this competing renewal is to study associations between personality and health over the lifespan, and the mechanisms underlying these associations, in the Hawaii Personality and Health cohort. This multiethnic cohort provides a rare opportunity to investigate personality processes in relation to health. The study began over 50 years ago with personality assessments of the participants when they were elementary school children. Since 1998, we have located and recruited participants for questionnaire assessments of personality and many other psychosocial variables, and conducted an extensive baseline medical and psychological examination at mean age 50. We have demonstrated associations between childhood personality and subjective and objective health outcomes at midlife. In this next phase of the project the primary activity will be to conduct the first follow-up medical and psychological examination of our sample at mean age 60, approximately 10 years after the baseline examination, on all eligible participants (N = 572). Childhood personality and personality change (from childhood to adulthood, plus personality change in adulthood) will be used to predict physical health and cognitive function at mean age 60, and changes in physical health and cognitive functioning from mean age 50 to 60. Furthermore, we will examine the main mechanisms from health-psychology models to account for personality-health associations, and we shall do so uniquely in the context of a 5-decade longitudinal study. These mechanisms are based on cognitive (inhibitory control), biological (HPA axis), and behavioral (diet, exercise, tobacco and alcohol use, sun exposure) processes which have been hypothesized to underlie personality-health associations. We will examine social-integration (social support) processes in our integrative analyses of the Hawaii and Terman Life Cycle data. This project will generate evidence to guide personality based interventions, in particular by suggesting which traits and trait mechanisms are most relevant in childhood and at midlife (e.g., trait conscientiousness in elementary school, health-behavior mechanisms at midlife). In addition, this project addresses the gross under-representation of Asian-Americans and those of Native-Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander ancestry in health-related scientific research.

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