Can Your Personality Predict How Often You Visit the Emergency Room?

Sep. 20, 2013

emergency roomThe answer is yes, according to a new study out today in the Milbank Quarterly.  In fact, where older adults rank in the “big five” personality traits correlates to how frequently they use a range of additional expensive health services such as hospital stays, hospital-based rehabilitation, and skilled nursing home care.

The study, which was led by Bruce Friedman, M.P.H., Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, followed 1,074 individuals over the age of 65 from upstate New York and parts of Ohio and West Virginia. 

The participants completed a survey which assigned them a score in the personality traits of neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.   These personality types have been extensively studied by psychiatrists and psychologists and are used to help establish characteristics in terms of how individuals interact with each other and perceive the world around them.  For example, someone who has a high in agreeableness is likely compassionate, altruistic, and cooperative, while a person who scored low would tends to be suspicious or antagonistic. 

The researchers then correlated these personality traits with two years worth of health care usage by the participants.  They found that there was a strong association between an individual’s personality and the use of high coast health care services, in some cases increasing emergency room visits and nursing home stays by 20 to 30 percent and even higher. 


You can read more about the study’s findings here.