Neuroticism and psychological distress: to what extent is their association due to person-environment correlation?

Eur Psychiatry. 2011 Jan;26(1):1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2009.11.003. Epub 2010 Apr 28.


Objective: To examine to what extent the association between neuroticism and psychological distress is related to individuals' inherent vulnerability or their tendency to self-select high-risk environments or situations.

Method: Data was drawn from both waves (1984/1985 and 1991) of the Health and Lifestyle Survey. Psychological distress was evaluated using the 30-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-30) and neuroticism was assessed with the Eysenck Personality Inventory. A checklist of life events was completed in the second wave only. A Latent State Trait model was estimated to decompose psychological distress into its environmental-contextual and individual-specific components.

Results: Neuroticism accounted for 31 and 10% respectively of the variance of the environmental-contextual and individual-specific psychological distress components.

Conclusion: Our results favour the notion that individuals with high-levels of neuroticism tend to self-select situations likely to lead to adversity and distress.

MeSH terms

  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Models, Psychological
  • Neurotic Disorders / complications*
  • Neurotic Disorders / etiology
  • Neurotic Disorders / psychology
  • Personality Inventory
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires