Children showing low conscientiousness (e.g., irresponsible, careless, not persevering) could later in their life be battling obesity, finds a study.
The Oregon Research Institute (ORI) study examines the relationship between childhood personality and adult health and shows a strong association between childhood conscientiousness (organized, dependable, self-disciplined) and health status in adulthood.
ORI scientist Sarah Hampson, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health, Hawaii helped complete the study.
Hampson said that these results are significant and unique as they show the far-reaching effects of childhood conscientiousness on adult health.
She said that others have shown that more conscientious children live longer but now they have shown that these conscientious children are also healthier at midlife.
This is the first study in which all the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and intellect/imagination) assessed in childhood have been used to predict objective health status assessed by multiple biomarkers over 40 years later in older adulthood.
In the 1960's, over 2,000 children from entire classrooms in elementary schools on two Hawaiian Islands were comprehensively assessed on their personality characteristics.
ORI researchers were funded in 1998 by the National Institute of Mental Health to locate and examine the health-related behaviors and mental and physical health status of these individuals.
Almost 75 percent of those in the original group who could be located (mean age 51 years) have agreed to participate, and over 800 individuals completed a medical and psychological examination supported by subsequent grants from the National Institute on Aging.
Hampson said that these findings suggest avenues for further research that may lead to interventions.
She asserted that people who are more conscientious tend to have better health habits and less stress, which protects them from disease.
Hampson added that self -control is a key part of being conscientious, so our findings confirm the importance of teaching children self-control to enable then to grow up to be healthy adults.
The study has been published in Health Psychology.