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Personality and heart disease
  1. A Steptoe,
  2. G J Molloy
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr A Steptoe
    Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1–19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK; a.steptoe{at}

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Personality traits are broad dimensions of individual differences between people that relate to the way in which we engage with our social worlds. They underpin the consistency with which we think, act and feel across different situations and over time. Adult personality traits are thought to be derived from early life differences in temperament; these are partly genetically determined and shape exposure to social experiences.1 There have been many taxonomies of personality traits, but research over the past 20 years has converged on the view that there are five broad personality dimensions, each of which accommodates a number of lower-order traits. The five factors are: extraversion or positive emotionality (incorporating traits such as sociability, energy, shyness and dominance/subordination); neuroticism or negative emotionality (including lower-order traits such as proneness to anxiety, irritability, sadness, insecurity and guilt); conscientiousness (factors such as reliability, carefulness, persistence and self-control); agreeableness (cooperativeness, consideration, generosity, kindness and politeness); and openness to experience (imaginativeness, insight and aesthetic sensitivity). Individuals vary on all these dispositions, so each person is thought to have a particular combination of trait strengths. Personality traits predict a range of outcomes with moderate consistency, including quality of social and family relationships, marital status and satisfaction, occupational choices, political attitudes and criminality.2


The role of personality in coronary heart disease (CHD) …

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

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