August 19, 2009

Neuroticism linked to smoking

A person with high neuroticism is likely to experience anxiety or depression and may self-medicate with tobacco, alcohol or drugs, U.S. researchers suggest.

Daniel K. Mroczek of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., says chronic worrying, anxiety and being prone to depression are key aspects of the personality trait of neuroticism.

Mroczek, Avron Spiro III and Nicholas A. Turiano analyzed data of 1,788 men and their smoking behavior and personality traits over a 30-year period from 1975-2005. The data were part of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Normative Aging Study, a long-term study of aging men based at the Boston VA Outpatient Clinic.

Research shows that higher levels of neuroticism can lead to earlier mortality, and we wanted to know why, Mroczek says in a statement. We found that having worrying tendencies or being the kind of person who stresses easily is likely to lead to bad behaviors like smoking and, therefore, raise the mortality rate.

The study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, found smoking accounted for about 25 percent to 40 percent of the association between high neuroticism and mortality. The other 60 percent is unexplained, the study said.