The results of a unique study from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, show that personality has an impact on how likely people are to take their medication. This is the first major study of its kind to be published in the online open access journal PloS ONE. Check the end of this report for a link to download the original, full-text study.
The study was based on 749 people with chronic diseases who responded to a questionnaire on medication adherence behavior – or in other words, whether they take their medicine. Their personalities were also assessed using another questionnaire, the Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI), which comprises 60 statements with five different responses. The questionnaire was based on five personality traits: neuroticism, extroversion, openness to experiences, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
Statistical analyses found a negative relationship between Neuroticism and medication adherence, while both Agreeableness and Conscientiousness were positively related to adherence. At high levels of Conscientiousness, low adherence was related to higher scores in Neuroticism. At high levels of Agreeableness, low adherence was related to low scores in Conscientiousness and high scores in Openness to experiences.
“If the person with the trait of agreeableness also had a low score for conscientiousness, and is thus less methodical, this seemed to have a negative effect on medication adherence,” says Malin Axelsson.
Her explanation for this is that people with high scores for conscientiousness are perhaps more likely to stick to their medication on account of a more structured temperament. On the other hand, those with low scores for the same personality trait can be described as slightly more unstructured and perhaps less inclined to introduce an element of routine into taking their medication.
“Both types may need different kinds of education and/or support,” says Axelsson. “As such, it may be important to take different dominant personality traits into account when treating patients with chronic diseases. The results of similarly formulated interview questionnaires could help people to become more aware of their medication and access more tailored support and/or education from healthcare professionals.”
Material adapted from University of Gothenburg.
Download / Reference
Axelsson M, Brink E, Lundgren J, & Lötvall J. The influence of personality traits on reported adherence to medication in individuals with chronic disease: an epidemiological study in west Sweden. PlosOne.