Personality and Health: A Longitudinal Study

Project: Research project

Project Details


An increasing number of people are exposed to age graded cognitive declines that develop into mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. Individuals vary in the time of onset, and the rate of decline in cognitive functioning associated with these risks. A portion 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 cognitive resilience using lifespan personality, health, and health behavior data over the lifespan, in the Hawaii Personality and Health Cohort. This multiethnic cohort provides a rare opportunity to investigate personality processes in relation to cognitive resilience. 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. Using these data, we have demonstrated associations between childhood personality and subjective and objective health outcomes at midlife. A ten-year follow-up examination at age 60 is nearly complete for half of the sample. In this next planned phase of the project, the primary activity will be to complete the 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 = 400). Childhood personality and personality change (from childhood to adulthood, plus personality change in adulthood) will be used to predict risk of cognitive impairment at mean age 60, and changes in cognitive functioning assessed annually over a span of four years. We will additionally study change in physical health and cognitive functioning from mean age 50 to 60 using a variety of health indicators and measures. Furthermore, we will examine the main mechanisms thought to account for associations between personality and resilience to cognitive declines, and we shall do so uniquely in the context of a longitudinal study spanning over 5-decades. These mechanisms are based on behavioral (diet, exercise, tobacco and alcohol use, sun exposure) and biological (telomere length, mitochondrial functioning, oxidative stress, biological age) processes which have been hypothesized to underlie associations between personality and resilience to cognitive impairment. 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.
Effective start/end date3/1/228/31/23


  • Oregon Research Institute (AGMT 6/30/22 // 5R01AG020048-24)
  • National Institute on Aging (AGMT 6/30/22 // 5R01AG020048-24)


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