Associations between Modifiable Health-Risk Behaviors and Personality Types

  • Jon C. Schommer University of Minnesota
  • Paul D. Tieger SpeedReading People, LLC
  • Anthony W. Olson University of Minnesota
  • Lawrence M. Brown Chapman University
Keywords: health risk behaviors, personality type


Objectives: The first objective for this study was to explore if characteristics of personality type (using the Preferred Communication Style Questionnaire) are associated with the following modifiable health-risk behaviors: smoking, exercise, alcohol consumption, nutrition, sleep, depression-related stress, anxiety-related stress, healthcare professional usage, and self-discipline. The second objective for this study was to explore if characteristics of personality type are associated with (1) the quality of patient-physician relationships, (2) patient-physician communication, and (3) preferred method for receiving information.

Methods: Data were collected from 10,500 adult individuals residing in the United States via an on-line, self-administered survey coordinated by Qualtrics Panels from March 14-30, 2016. Chi-square analysis was used for making comparisons between categories of personality types and items related to health-risk behaviors. Statistical significance was set at p < 0.05. However, chi-square analysis with large sample sizes (e.g. 10,500 in this study) readily yields statistical significance. Practical significance was set at four or more percentage points above or below the overall mean.

Results: Regarding objective 1, personality type was associated with all nine health-risk behaviors studied. Personality types within the Experiencer temperament (17% of the U.S. population) accounted for 46% of the undesirable scores we computed for health-risk behaviors. The Idealist temperament (17% of population) accounted for 32% of the undesirable scores. Conceptualizers (10% of population) accounted for 17% of the undesirable scores and Traditionalists (46% of population) accounted for 5% of the undesirable scores. Regarding objective 2, the findings showed that personality type was associated with (1) the importance people place on the patient-physician relationship, (2) which characteristics of that relationship are most desirable, (3) desire for more communication with their physician, and (4) the preferred method for receiving information.

Discussion and Conclusions: Precision medicine has been proposed as a way to create a new taxonomy of disease that uses individual specific data to develop accurate diagnosis, targeted treatment, and improved health outcomes. Based on the findings of this study, we propose that inclusion of personality type is an important component of these efforts so that the health care system can conform more to the individual patient in order to increase engagement and adherence, reduce errors, minimize ineffective treatment and waste, and can be cost effective.

Conflict of Interest

Co-author, Paul Tieger is CEO of SpeedReading People, LLC which holds copyright for the Individual Wellness Plan and Adherence Predictive Index tools that are mentioned in this manuscript.


Type: Original Research


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Received 2017-03-08
Published 2017-05-24
Practice-Based Research