Interaction of personality traits with social deprivation in determining mental wellbeing and health behaviours

Chris J. Packard, Jonathan Cavanagh, Jennifer S. McLean, Alex McConnachie, Claudia Martina Messow, G. David Batty, Harry Burns, Kevin A. Deans, Naveed Sattar, Paul G. Shiels, Yoga N. Velupillai, Carol Tannahill, Keith Millar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Associations between personality traits, mental wellbeing and good health behaviours were examined to understand further the social and psychological context of the health divide. Methods: In a cross-sectional study, 666 subjects recruited from areas of high and low socioeconomic deprivation had personality traits and mental wellbeing assessed, and lifestyle behaviours quantified. Regression models (using deprivation as a moderating variable) assessed the extent to which personality traits and mental wellbeing predicted health behaviour. Results: Deprived (vs. affluent) subjects exhibited similar levels of extraversion but higher levels of neuroticism and psychoticism, more hopelessness, less sense of coherence, lower self-esteem and lower self-efficacy (all P< 0.001). They ate less fruit and vegetables, smoked more and took less aerobic exercise (all P< 0.001). In the deprived group, personality traits were significantly more important predictors of mental wellbeing than in the least deprived group (P< 0.01 for interaction), and mental wellbeing and extraversion appeared more strongly related to good health behaviours. Conclusions: Persistence of a social divide in health may be related to interactions between personality, mental wellbeing and the adoption of good health behaviours in deprived areas. Effectiveness of health messages may be enhanced by accommodating the variation in the levels of extraversion, neuroticism, hopelessness and sense of coherence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-624
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Public Health (United Kingdom)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • deprivation
  • health behaviours
  • mental wellbeing
  • personality traits
  • socioeconomic status


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