Personality associations with lung function and dyspnea: Evidence from six studies

Published:January 21, 2023DOI:


      • Personality traits are related to lung function and associated symptomatology.
      • Higher neuroticism was related to worse lung function and higher risk of dyspnea.
      • Extraversion, openness and conscientiousness were related to better lung function.
      • Extraversion and conscientiousness were related to lower risk of dyspnea.
      • Agreeableness was related to higher peak expiratory flow and lower risk of dyspnea.



      The present study examined the association between Five Factor Model personality traits and lung function and dyspnea.


      Participants were middle aged and older adults aged 34–103 years old (N > 25,000) from the Midlife in the United States Study (MIDUS), the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), the National Health and Aging Trends Survey (NHATS), and the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study graduate (WLSG) and sibling (WLSS) samples. Data on peak expiratory flow (PEF), dyspnea, personality traits, smoking, physical activity, body mass index (BMI), emotional/psychiatric problems, and demographic factors were obtained in each sample.


      A meta-analysis indicated that higher neuroticism was related to lower PEF, higher risk of PEF less than 80% of predicted value, and higher risk of dyspnea. In contrast, higher extraversion and conscientiousness were associated with higher PEF, lower likelihood of PEF lower than 80% of the predicted value, and lower risk of dyspnea. Higher openness was related to higher PEF and lower risk of PEF less than 80%, whereas agreeableness was related to higher PEF and lower risk of dyspnea. Smoking, physical activity, BMI and emotional/psychiatric problems partially accounted for these associations. There was little evidence that lung disease moderated the association between personality and PEF and dyspnea.


      Across cohorts, this study found replicable evidence that personality is associated with lung function and associated symptomatology.


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