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High school personality traits and 48-year all-cause mortality risk: results from a national sample of 26 845 baby boomers
  1. Benjamin P Chapman1,2,
  2. Alison Huang3,
  3. Elizabeth Horner3,
  4. Kelly Peters3,
  5. Ellena Sempeles3,
  6. Brent Roberts4,
  7. Susan Lapham3
  1. 1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York, USA
  2. 2 Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York, USA
  3. 3 American Institute for Research, Washington DC, District of Columbia, USA
  4. 4 Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Benjamin P Chapman, Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642, USA; ben_chapman{at}


Background It is unclear if adolescent personality predicts mortality into late life, independent of adolescent socioeconomic status (SES).

Methods Over 26 000 members of Project Talent, a US population cohort of high school students, completed a survey including 10 personality scales and SES in 1960. Multi-source mortality follow-up obtained vital status data through an average 48-year period ending in 2009. Cox proportional hazard models examined the relative risk associated with personality traits, as well as confounding by both a measure of SES and by race/ethnicity.

Results Adjusted for sex and grade, higher levels of vigour, calm, culture, maturity and social sensitivity in high school were associated with reduced mortality risk (HRs=0.92 to. 96), while higher levels of impulsivity were associated with greater mortality risk. Further adjustment for SES and school racial/ethnic composition mildly attenuated (eg, 12%), but did not eliminate these associations. Final HRs for a 1 SD change in personality traits were similar to that for a 1 SD change in SES.

Conclusions Adaptive personality traits in high school are associated with all-cause mortality in the USA as far into the future as the seventh decade, and to a degree similar to high school socioeconomic disadvantage.

  • all-cause mortality
  • life course epidemiology
  • personality traits
  • project talent

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  • Contributors BPC: design, analysis, interpretation, drafting and critical revision. SL, KP, EH, ES, BR: interpretation, drafting, critical revision.

  • Funding This study was funded by National Institute on Aging (grant number: R01 AG053155).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval University of Rochester Medical Center and American Institute for Research IRBs.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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