Associations between dimensional personality measures and preclinical atherosclerosis: the cardiovascular risk in Young Finns study

J Psychosom Res. 2012 May;72(5):336-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2012.02.003. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


Objective: To assess how multidimensional personality-trait theories, such as the Psychobiological Model of Temperament and Character, and the Five-factor Model of Personality, are associated with subclinical atherosclerosis as indicated by carotid intima-media thickness (IMT). The analysis was designed to tolerate non-linear development in which the same personality profiles can have multiple final outcomes and different antecedent profiles can have the same final outcome.

Methods: 605 men and 844 women (average age 31.6year, s.d.=5.0, range=24-39) provided data on IMT and traits of the psychobiological model, 725 men and 1011 women were assessed for IMT and the five-factor model (age 37.7year, s.d.=5.0, range=30-45). Robust multidimensional Hotelling's T(2) statistic was used to detect personality differences between participants with high IMT and others. Model-based clustering method further explored the effect.

Results: Those with a high level of subclinical atherosclerosis within the sample (highest IMT-decile) had a combined higher persistence (i.e., were perseverative or perfectionistic), more disorganized (schizotypal) character, and more antisocial temperamental configuration than others (P=0.019). No effect was found for the five-factor model (P=0.978). Traditional methods that did not account for multidimensionality and nonlinearity did not detect an association.

Conclusion: Psychological well-being may have positive effects on health that reduce atherosclerosis in the population as a whole. Increased subclinical atherosclerosis was associated with a profile that combines known risk factors, such as cynical distrust and hostile tendencies. More frequent use of statistical procedures that can cope with non-linear interactions in complex psychobiological systems may facilitate scientific advances in health promotion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atherosclerosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Atherosclerosis / psychology*
  • Carotid Arteries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carotid Intima-Media Thickness
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Assessment
  • Personality*
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors