Personality traits predict emergency department utilization over 3 years in older patients

Benjamin P. Chapman, Manish Shah, Bruce Friedman, Rebecca Drayer, Paul R. Duberstein, Jeffrey M. Lyness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND:: Emergency department (ED) utilization by older patients has major implications for morbidity, mortality, and health costs, yet its behavioral determinants remain poorly understood. Powerfully tied to health in older adults, the "Big Five" personality traits of neuroticism, extroversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness may predict ED use. OBJECTIVES:: Investigate the role of personality in prospective ED use among older patients. RESEARCH DESIGN:: Prospective cohort. SUBJECTS:: Adults aged 65 and older. MEASURES:: Participants completed the NEO Five Factor Inventory of personality at baseline, and interviewers administered the Cornell Services Index assessing ED use at baseline and 3 yearly follow-ups. RESULTS:: Controlling for income, education, gender, age, physician-assessed medical burden and physical functioning, and interviewer-assessed impairments in basic activities of daily living and physical self-maintenance, and depression, lower agreeableness and higher extroversion were each associated with increased odds of an ED visit over the follow-up period. A 1 sample deviation (SD) increase in extroversion (i.e., 50th versus 83rd population percentile) increased the odds of ED use by 51% (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] [95% CI] ≤ 1.51 [1.03ĝ€"2.21], z ≤ 2.12, N ≤ 923, p ≤ 0.034). A 1-SD decrease in agreeableness (i.e., 50th versus 17th population percentile) increased odds of ED use by 54% (AOR [95% CI] ≤ 1.54 [1.05-2.22], z ≤ ĝ̂'2.25, N ≤ 923, p ≤ 0.034). CONCLUSION:: The greater assertiveness and social confidence signified by lower agreeableness and higher extroversion may help older adults overcome potential barriers to the ED. Overly introverted and agreeable older adults may require special encouragement to access the EDĝ€"particularly for time-sensitive conditionsĝ€"to reduce morbidity and mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)526-535
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Andersen behavioral model
  • Emergency department use
  • Older adults
  • Personality traits


Dive into the research topics of 'Personality traits predict emergency department utilization over 3 years in older patients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this