Gender Differences in the Relationship between Personality Dimensions and Relative Body Weight

Authors


Obesity Research Center, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, 1090 Amsterdam Avenue 14th Floor, New York, NY 10025. E-mail msf21@columbia.edu

Abstract

Objective: The relationship between body mass index (BMI: kg/m2) and personality seems to differ for men and women, although these effects may be driven by the extremes of the BMI distribution. It is unclear whether these associations exist for most individuals in the relatively normal range of BMI scores, excluding the thinnest and heaviest extremes in the population. We tested the association of BMI with neuroticism, extraversion, and psychoticism with a trimmed BMI sample.

Research Methods and Procedures: Using a cross-sectional design, we tested the association of BMI with the aforementioned psychological variables in a British population-based sample. Participants were 7889 adult men and women (30 to 50 years old) selectively sampled from four counties in west England. Participants reported their height and weight and completed the Eysenck Personality Inventory (EPQ). We tested the association of BMI with the EPQ subscales among individuals with BMI ≥19.16 kg/m2 and ≤37.78 kg/m2, i.e., the approximate 5th and 95th percentiles.

Results: Despite elimination of extreme BMIs, different associations between BMI and EPQ subscales emerged for men and women. Among women, increasing BMI was significantly associated with increased neuroticism and reduced extraversion. Among men, increasing BMI was associated with increased extraversion and psychoticism. In all cases, the magnitude of the association was very small.

Discussion: Increasing BMI was associated with potentially poorer adjustment among women but better adjustment among men. These findings are consistent with recent reports and, taken together, suggest that these patterns are not accounted for solely by the extremes of the BMI distribution.

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