The impact of personality on the reporting of unfounded symptoms and illness

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1999 Aug;77(2):370-8. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.77.2.370.


This study examined the role of personality in the reporting of symptoms and illness not supported by underlying pathology. After assessment of the Big Five personality factors, 276 healthy volunteers were inoculated with a common cold virus. On each of the following 5 days, objective indicators of pathology, self-reported symptoms, and self-reported illness onset were assessed. Neuroticism was directly associated with reports of unfounded (without a physiological basis) symptoms in individuals at baseline and postinoculation in those with and without colds. Neuroticism was also indirectly associated with reports of unfounded illness through reports of more symptoms. Openness to Experience was associated with reporting unfounded symptoms in those with verifiable colds, whereas Conscientiousness was associated with reporting unfounded illness in those who were not ill.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Common Cold / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Personality Assessment
  • Personality*