To address the common reliance on the global Big Five
domains in the personality and longevity literature, the present study examined mortality risk associated with subdimensions of Big Five
domains as well as specific traits within the interpersonal circumplex
(IPC) model of personality.
Data were drawn from three major longitudinal studies of aging that administered the NEO Personality Inventory-Revised, a comprehensive measure of the Big Five
, and comprised a total of 4223 participants. Item Response Theory models were used to generate latent trait scores for each of the 30 Big Five
facets and eight scales from the IPC. Pooled mortality risk estimates were obtained from demographic-adjusted Cox regression models within each study.
With a high degree of consistency, the vulnerability facet of neuroticism was associated with higher mortality risk and the activity facet of extraversion, with lower risk. None of the openness or agreeableness facets were associated with mortality, although the IPC scales submissiveness and hostile submissiveness were linked with elevated risk. All but one of the facets in the conscientiousness domain were robustly and consistently associated with lower mortality risk.
Findings indicate that specific facets of neuroticism and extraversion carry greater or lesser mortality risk. Broad composite scales averaging across all facets mask important personality risk factors. In contrast, nearly all facets within the conscientiousness domain confer protection against mortality. Finally, the IPC model may capture more nuanced interpersonal risk factors than the facets of Big Five
agreeableness or extraversion. Understanding of the role of personality in longevity requires a more precise approach to conceptualization and measurement than broad, composite constructs usually provide.