Journal Article

Personality and preventive healthcare utilisation: evidence from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing

January 28, 2019

Preventive Medicine, Vol. 120, March 2019, pp. 107-112

Highlights

 

Preventive healthcare services are an important component of healthy ageing.

We examine the association between personality and preventive healthcare use.

Openness is associated with breast lump check and mammogram for those aged 65+.

Other ‘Big Five’ traits are not associated with preventive healthcare use.

 

There is extensive empirical evidence that personality is associated with many outcomes and behaviours, such as educational outcomes, labour market participation, savings behaviour, health behaviours, physical health status and mortality. Use of preventive healthcare services (e.g., vaccinations, screening, etc.) is a potential pathway explaining the link between personality and health, and is an important component of healthy ageing. We examine the association between personality traits (the ‘Big Five’) and a variety of preventive healthcare utilisation measures in the older population. Using data from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), we estimate Poisson models of preventive healthcare utilisation (influenza vaccination, blood cholesterol test, breast lump check, mammogram, prostate examination, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test). We find that openness to experience is a significant predictor of breast lump check and mammogram in women aged 65+ after adjustment for other confounders and multiple hypothesis testing. While uptake of many preventive healthcare services remains below national recommendations for the older population, with the exception of breast lump checks and mammograms for women aged 65+, we find little evidence to link this heterogeneity in uptake to personality.