Previous research has repeatedly shown both personality and psychological stress to predict gastrointestinal disorders and chronic diarrhea in humans. The goal of the present research was to evaluate the role of personality, as well as psychological stressors (i.e., housing relocations and rearing environment), in predicting chronic diarrhea in captive Rhesus macaques, with particular attention to how personality regulated the impact of such stressors. Subjects were 1,930 R. macaques at the California National Primate Research Center reared in a variety of environments. All subjects took part in an extensive personality evaluation at approximately 90-120 days of age. Data were analyzed using generalized linear models to determine how personality, rearing condition, housing relocations, and personality by environment interactions, predicted both diarrhea risk (an animal's risk for having diarrhea at least once) and chronic diarrhea (how many repeated bouts of diarrhea an animal had after their initial bout). Much like the human literature, we found that certain personality types (i.e., nervous, gentle, vigilant, and not confident) were more likely to have chronic diarrhea, and that certain stressful environments (i.e., repeated housing relocations) increased diarrhea risk. We further found multiple interactions between personality and environment, supporting the "interactionist" perspective on personality and health. We conclude that while certain stressful environments increase risk for chronic diarrhea, the relative impact of these stressors is highly dependent on an animal's personality.
Keywords: diarrhea; macaque; personality; primate; temperament.
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