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Personality is of central concern to understand health: towards a theoretical model for health psychology

Eamonn, Ferguson


Professor of Health Psychology


This paper sets out the case that personality traits are central to health psychology. To achieve this, three aims need to be addressed. First, it is necessary to show that personality influences a broad range of health outcomes and mechanisms. Second, the simple descriptive account of Aim 1 is not sufficient, and a theoretical specification needs to be developed to explain the personality health
link and allow for future hypothesis generation. Third, once Aims 1 and 2 are met, it is necessary to demonstrate the clinical utility of personality. In this review I make the case that all three Aims are met. I develop a theoretical framework to understand the links between personality and health drawing on current theorising in the biology, evolution, and neuroscience of personality. I identify traits (i.e., alexithymia, Type D, hypochondriasis, and empathy) that are of particular concern to health psychology and set these with in evolutionary cost benefit analysis. The literature is reviewed within a three-level hierarchical model
(individual, group, and organisational) and it is argued that health psychology needs to move from its traditional focus on the individual level to engage group and organisational levels.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 11, 2010
Online Publication Date Jul 26, 2011
Publication Date 2013
Deposit Date Nov 25, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 25, 2015
Journal Health Psychology Review
Print ISSN 1743-7199
Electronic ISSN 1743-7199
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue Suppl1
Article Number S32-S70
Pages S32-S70
Keywords personality, health, psychology, evolution
Public URL
Publisher URL


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