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Personality and inflammatory markers. René Mõttus   Michelle Luciano  John M. Starr  J. F. Price*  Ian J. Deary Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, UK  *Centre for Population Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, UK. What's the big deal?.

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slide1

Personality and inflammatory markers

René Mõttus  

Michelle Luciano 

John M. Starr 

J. F. Price* 

Ian J. Deary

Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, UK 

*Centre for Population Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, UK

slide2

What's the big deal?

  • If any associations occur, this is not (necessarily) trivial:
    • Personality traits = responses to questionnaire items
    • Inflammatory markers = biomarkers measured in blood
  • If the associations are not trivial, they might be informative:
    • Inflammatory markers indicate various aspects of ill-health, markers of disease burden, increase with age
    • Personality traits summarize consistent and stable ways of feeling, thinking and behaving
      • personality → ill-health
      • ill-health → personality
      • common causes for both
slide3

It's nice to have them, but it's just as nice to see them go away

  • If something breaks the associations, this might be an explanation:
    • Controlling for smoking makes personality irrelevant for inflammation: personality traits may incline people towards the bad stuff, which in turn makes people ill
    • Probably suggestive of personality causing health
  • So we may end up with a better understanding of why some people are more ill than others (from the health perspective)



  • Or we may understand where and how personality traits matter (from the personality science perspective)
slide4

What has been found so far on personality and inflammation?

Hardly anything breath-taking:

  • Few studies available
  • Very small effects (who would expect more anyway?)
  • Conscientiousness, Openness, and Neuroticism may be related to inflammatory markers
  • Openness may be confounded by intelligence or education
  • Little evidence for mediators
slide6

What we had and did

  • A large older sample
    • Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 – 1,091 people (aged ~70+)
  • Various inflammatory markers, measured twice over 3 years
  • Possibility to test for possible mediators and control for confounders
    • Smoking, drinking, physical activity
    • Emotional distress
    • Cognitive ability, education, social class, BMI, diseases
  • A "replication sample" – nearly 1,000 older people with diabetes (Edinburgh Type 2 Diabetes Study)
slide7

LBC1936

  • For Conscientiousness, the associations with inflammation were to some extent consistent over time and markers 



    • The most consistent correlate being Conscientiousness is in line with most previous findings*



  • Intellect apparently had spurious association with inflammation
  • Oh yeah, the effect sizes were tiny (but no one expected otherwise)

    * maybe not type a 1 error after all

slide10

Bad practicies of science

  • We had a "replication sample" 
  • It didn't replicate
  • So the “hits” [significant findings in LBC1936] had apparently been rubbish (type 1 errors)
  • Or ... maybe we had chosen a bad "replication sample"
  • Should we forget that we had the bad "replication sample"?
  • Or, the non-replication might actually be the most informative aspect of the study, once there is an explanation for that
slide11

Might actually be interesting stuff

  • People with diabetes constantly monitor their health themselves or get it monitored by health carers
  • Problems are addressed quickly 
  • They are offered a lot of medical advice
  • All that happens regardless of their levels of Conscientiousness -- they need to take care or they die
  • So, maybe self-monitoring and willingness to promptly address any symptoms of illness is the thing that makes Conscientiousness matter for health in normal people
slide12

Perhaps not the final truth

  • Generates some hypotheses to be tested though, at the very least
    • self-monitoring, problem-addressing and looking for help as mediators could be measured (somehow)