Personality Trait Pathways To Allostatic Load: Testing Prospective Mediation Effects Of Coping Styles And Coping-Related Health Behaviors In A National Sample

Elizabeth Ann Milad, Wayne State University


Objective: The present study investigated prospective pathways from personality traits via coping styles and coping-related health behaviors to a latent construct of biomarkers for cumulative physiological health risk (allostatic load) in a national sample.

Methods: Using three waves of prospective data from the Midlife in the United States study (MIDUS), path analyses using bootstrapping procedures were used to test direct and indirect effects (via coping styles, general activity level, moderate/vigorous physical activity, lifetime history of regular smoking, and alcohol consumption) of personality traits on a latent measurement model of allostatic load (N = 1,054).

Results: Direct 10-year prospective effects of greater conscientiousness on lower (healthier) allostatic load and greater extraversion on greater (less healthy) allostatic load were observed. Consistent with hypothesized behavioral pathways, the relationships between conscientiousness and extraversion on allostatic load were mediated by general activity levels. Alcohol consumption and physical activity were associated with lower levels of allostatic load, but did not act as prospective mediators on allostatic load. No effects of neuroticism, openness to experience, and coping styles on allostatic load were observed.

Conclusions: The results provide further evidence of conscientiousness’ standing as a marker of health via cumulative physiological health risk. The prospective indirect (mediated) effect by general activity suggests a greater perception of engagement in activities of day-to-day life is a pathway through which conscientious and extraverted individuals experience a healthier physiological profile. Further development of the content domains and predictors of perceptions of being active represents a potentially fruitful focus of related research.