The role of personality in health care use: Results of a population-based longitudinal study in Germany

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE To determine the role of personality in health care use longitudinally. METHODS Data were derived from the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP), a nationally representative, longitudinal cohort study of German households starting in 1984. Concentrating on the role of personality, we used data from the years 2005, 2009 and 2013. Personality was measured by using the GSOEP Big Five Inventory (BFI-S). Number of physician visits in the last 3 months and hospital stays in the last year were used as measures of health care use. RESULTS Adjusting for predisposing factors, enabling resources, and need factors, fixed effects regressions revealed that physician visits increased with increasing neuroticism, whereas extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness did not affect physician visits in a significant way. The effect of self-rated health on physician visits was significantly moderated by neuroticism. Moreover, fixed effects regressions revealed that the probability of hospitalization in the past year increased with increasing extraversion, whereas the other personality factors did not affect this outcome measure significantly. CONCLUSION Our findings suggest that changes in neuroticism are associated with changes in physician visits and that changes in extraversion are associated with the probability of hospitalization. Since recent studies have shown that treatments can modify personality traits, developing interventional strategies should take into account personality factors. For example, efforts to intervene in changing neuroticism might have beneficial effects for the healthcare system.

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Hajek, A., Bock, J. O., & König, H. H. (2017). The role of personality in health care use: Results of a population-based longitudinal study in Germany. PLoS ONE, 12(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181716

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