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Personality Traits and Circadian Blood Pressure Patterns: A 7-Year Prospective Study

Terracciano, Antonio PhD; Strait, James MD; Scuteri, Angelo MD; Meirelles, Osorio PhD; Sutin, Angelina R. PhD; Tarasov, Kirill PhD; Ding, Jun PhD; Marongiu, Michele; Orru, Marco MD; Pilia, Maria Grazia MD; Cucca, Francesco MD; Lakatta, Edward MD; Schlessinger, David PhD

doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000035
Original Articles

Objective A nighttime dip in blood pressure is associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. We examined whether personality traits predict nighttime dipping blood pressure.

Methods A community-based sample of 2848 adults from Sardinia (Italy) completed the Revised NEO Personality Inventory and 7 years later were examined with 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. The primary analyses examined the associations of personality traits with continuous and categorical measures of mean arterial, systolic, and diastolic blood pressure nighttime dipping.

Results Agreeableness and conscientiousness were associated with more nocturnal blood pressure dipping (β = .05 [p = .025] and β = .07 [p < .001], respectively) and lower systolic blood pressure at night (β = −.05 [p = .018] and β = −.03 [p = .072], respectively). Nondippers were particularly more impulsive (p = .009), less trusting (p = .004), and less self-disciplined (p = .001), but there was no significant association between nocturnal dipping blood pressure and trait anxiety (p = .78) or depression (p = .59). The associations were stronger when comparing extreme dippers (nighttime drop ≥20%) to reverse dippers (nighttime increase in blood pressure). Indeed, scoring 1 standard deviation higher on conscientiousness was associated with approximately 40% reduced risk of reverse dipping (odds ratio = 1.43, confidence interval = 1.08–1.91).

Conclusions We found evidence that reduced nighttime blood pressure dipping is associated with antagonism and impulsivity-related traits but not with measures of emotional vulnerability. The strongest associations were found with conscientiousness, a trait that may have a broad impact on cardiovascular health.

From the Florida State University College of Medicine (A.T., A.R.S.), Tallahassee, Florida; National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health (A.T., J.S., O.M., A.R.S., K.T., J.D., E.L., D.S.), Baltimore, Maryland; Istituto di Neurogenetica e Neurofarmacologia (M.M., M.G.P., F.C.), Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Cagliari, Italy; Hospital San Raffaele Pisana IRCCS (A.S.), Rome, Italy; and Unità Operativa Complessa Cardiologia (M.O.), Presidio Ospedaliero A. Businco, Cagliari, Italy.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Antonio Terracciano, PhD, Department of Geriatrics, Florida State University College of Medicine, 1115 West Call St, Tallahassee, FL 32306. E-mail:

Received for publication April 29, 2013; revision received November 24, 2013.

Copyright © 2014 by American Psychosomatic Society
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