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Personality Factors in Older Women's Perceived Susceptibility to Diseases of Aging

Authors


  • Mary A. Gerend, Department of Medical Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Medicine, Florida State University; Leona S. Aiken, and Stephen G. West, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University.
    This research was supported in part by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

concerning this article should be addressed to Mary A. Gerend, Department of Medical Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Medicine, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4300. Electronic mail may be sent to mary.gerend@med.fsu.edu.

Abstract

Abstract Personality correlates of older women's perceived susceptibility to breast cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis were examined in a community sample of 312 women aged 40–86. A latent factor of general perceived susceptibility to disease was shown to underlie disease-specific perceptions of susceptibility. Affect-related personality traits (neuroticism, extraversion, optimism, worry, and self-deceptive enhancement) and internal and chance health locus of control predicted general perceived susceptibility. Perceived disease characteristics (e.g., perceived controllability, severity) and the use of cognitive heuristics (i.e., perceived similarity to those who contract each disease) also displayed marked consistency across the three distinct diseases. Finally, our results suggested that general beliefs about the characteristics of health threats and the use of cognitive heuristics may mediate the link between personality traits and perceived risk.

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