Pessimistic, anxious, and depressive personality traits predict all-cause mortality: the Mayo Clinic cohort study of personality and aging

Psychosom Med. 2009 Jun;71(5):491-500. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31819e67db. Epub 2009 Mar 25.


Objective: To study the association between several personality traits and all-cause mortality.

Methods: We established a historical cohort of 7216 subjects who completed the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) for research at the Mayo Clinic from 1962 to 1965, and who resided within a 120-mile radius centered in Rochester, MN. A total of 7080 subjects (98.1%) were followed over four decades either actively (via a direct or proxy telephone interview) or passively (via review of medical records or by obtaining their death certificates). We examined the association of pessimistic, anxious, and depressive personality traits (as measured using MMPI scales) with all-cause mortality.

Results: A total of 4634 subjects (65.5%) died during follow-up. Pessimistic, anxious, and depressive personality traits were associated with increased all-cause mortality in both men and women. In addition, we observed a linear trend of increasing risk from the first to the fourth quartile for all three scales. Results were similar in additional analyses considering the personality scores as continuous variables, in analyses combining the three personality traits into a composite neuroticism score, and in several sets of sensitivity analyses. These associations remained significant even when personality was measured early in life (ages 20-39 years).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that personality traits related to neuroticism are associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality even when they are measured early in life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Cause of Death*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression
  • Dysthymic Disorder / blood
  • Dysthymic Disorder / mortality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • MMPI / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Neurotic Disorders / mortality*
  • Personality Disorders / diagnosis
  • Personality Disorders / mortality
  • Personality Inventory
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity