Objective: Personality traits have been associated with cardiometabolic diseases and mental disorders as well as with longevity. However, the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Accelerated cellular aging may play a role in this process. We studied whether personality traits in late adulthood, as defined in the five-factor model (FFM), were associated with a biomarker of cellular vitality, leukocyte telomere length (LTL).
Methods: At a mean age of 63.4 (SD=2.8) years, 1671 (742 men, 929 women) participants from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study filled in the Neuroticism, Extraversion and Openness Personality Inventory (NEO-PI). LTL was measured at a mean age of 61.5 (SD=2.9) years by using a real-time quantitative PCR method.
Results: None of the FFM personality dimensions were significantly associated with the LTL in the analyses of both sexes combined. We however found interaction between sex and agreeableness (B=0.020, 95% CI=.008, 0.032, p=.001) and in the sex-specific analyses, men who scored higher on agreeableness (B=-0.086, 95% CI=-0.155, -0.016, p=.016) and women who scored lower on agreeableness (B=0.074, 95% CI=0.014, 0.134, p=.016) had shorter LTL.
Conclusions: FFM dimensions of personality were not associated with LTL in a sample of elderly individuals. The counterintuitive and sporadic sex specific finding on agreeableness requires replication. Overall our findings suggest that LTL, a biomarker of cellular aging, may not offer insight into the associations between personality, longevity and health.
Keywords: Cellular aging; Cohort; Health; Personality; Telomere.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.