Personality and preventive healthcare utilisation: Evidence from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing

Prev Med. 2019 Mar;120:107-112. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2018.12.029. Epub 2019 Jan 18.


There is extensive empirical evidence that personality is associated with many outcomes and behaviours, such as educational outcomes, labour market participation, savings behaviour, health behaviours, physical health status and mortality. Use of preventive healthcare services (e.g., vaccinations, screening, etc.) is a potential pathway explaining the link between personality and health, and is an important component of healthy ageing. We examine the association between personality traits (the 'Big Five') and a variety of preventive healthcare utilisation measures in the older population. Using data from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), we estimate Poisson models of preventive healthcare utilisation (influenza vaccination, blood cholesterol test, breast lump check, mammogram, prostate examination, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test). We find that openness to experience is a significant predictor of breast lump check and mammogram in women aged 65+ after adjustment for other confounders and multiple hypothesis testing. While uptake of many preventive healthcare services remains below national recommendations for the older population, with the exception of breast lump checks and mammograms for women aged 65+, we find little evidence to link this heterogeneity in uptake to personality.

Keywords: Ireland; Older population; Personality; Preventive healthcare.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Healthy Aging / physiology
  • Healthy Aging / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / prevention & control
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control
  • Ireland
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mammography / methods
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Personality*
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / prevention & control