Personality traits and preventive Cancer screenings in the health retirement study

Damaris Aschwanden*, Mary Gerend, Martina Luchetti, Yannick Stephan, Angelina R. Sutin, Antonio Terracciano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The Five-Factor model of personality has been associated with a wide range of health behaviors and health outcomes. However, few studies have examined whether personality traits are related to cancer screening in older adults. The present study investigated the cross-sectional associations between personality traits and the probability of obtaining a recent preventive screening for breast, cervical, prostate, and colorectal cancer. Participants from the Health and Retirement Study (N = 14,394, Mage = 68.14 years, range = 50–102 years, 58.6% female) completed a personality inventory and reported on cancer screenings in the 2010–2012 assessment. Logistic regression models were used to analyze the data, including age, race, ethnicity, gender, education, income, and wealth as covariates. Higher conscientiousness was associated with a higher likelihood of obtaining breast, cervical, and prostate screening. Higher extraversion was related to higher odds of breast, cervical, and colorectal screening. Higher neuroticism was linked to higher odds of colorectal screening, and conscientiousness moderated the link between neuroticism and cervical screening. These associations were significant in models that accounted for demographic and socioeconomic factors. The effect sizes were in the range of a 10–20% higher likelihood of cancer screening for 1 SD difference in personality. The present findings suggest that conscientiousness and extraversion were related to preventive cancer screenings, whereas neuroticism, openness and agreeableness were largely unrelated to the likelihood of such screenings. If these results are further replicated, health policy makers may consider personality traits when planning and implementing screening recommendations to improve preventive medicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105763
JournalPreventive medicine
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • Older age
  • Personality
  • Preventive cancer screenings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology


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