Conscientiousness predicts disease progression (CD4 number and viral load) in people living with HIV

Health Psychol. 2007 Jul;26(4):473-80. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.26.4.473.


Objective: Psychosocial factors (e.g., depression, avoidant coping, life stress) have been related to disease progression in HIV. This study examined the relationship between the Big Five Conscientiousness factor and HIV disease progression (CD4 cell and viral load) over 1 year in 119 seropositive participants. The study also examined whether Conscientiousness effects were mediated by adherence, perceived stress, depression, or coping measures.

Design: In a 1-year longitudinal design, participants completed the NEO Five-Factor Inventory Conscientiousness scale (P. T. Costa & R. R. McCrae, 1992). Participants also completed psychosocial assessments and underwent blood draws at initial assessments and 1-year follow-up.

Main outcome measures: Multiple hierarchical regression models were used to predict change in CD4 cell numbers and viral load log 10, controlling for demographic variables, initial disease status, and antiretroviral medications.

Results: Conscientiousness predicted significant increases in CD4 number and significant decreases in viral load at 1 year. Conscientiousness was related positively to medication adherence and active coping and negatively to depression and perceived stress. Only perceived stress emerged as a possible mediator.

Conclusion: The significant relationship between Conscientiousness and medication adherence, distress, and coping suggests that an assessment of Conscientiousness in patients with HIV may help specify or target behavioral interventions to promote optimal disease management.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Behavior Therapy
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • HIV / isolation & purification
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • HIV Infections / virology*
  • HIV Seropositivity / virology
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Patient Compliance
  • Personality / classification*
  • Personality Assessment
  • Personality Inventory
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Viral Load*