Personality Change Predicts Self-Reported Mental and Physical Health


  • This article uses unit record data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. The HILDA Project was initiated and is funded by the Australian Government's Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), and is managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (Melbourne Institute). The findings and views reported in this article, however, are those of the authors and should not be attributed to either FaHCSIA or the Melbourne Institute.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Christopher A. Magee, Centre for Health Initiatives, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. Email:



Personality dimensions are known to predict mortality and other health outcomes, but almost no research has assessed the effects of changes in personality traits on physical and mental health outcomes. In this article, we examined the effects of changes in the Big Five personality dimensions on health as assessed by the Short Form Health Survey (SF-36).


Respondents were 11,105 Australian adults aged 20–79 years (52.7% female). Latent difference score modeling was used to examine whether personality change over a 4-year period was associated with mental and physical health, and whether these effects were moderated by birth cohort.


Increases in Conscientiousness and Extraversion were found to be associated with improved mental and physical health, whereas increased Neuroticism was linked with poorer health. The nature of these associations varied significantly by birth cohort.


The findings have implications for understanding how changes in personality traits over time are related to health, and could be used to aid the development of effective health promotion strategies targeted to specific personality traits and birth cohorts.