Personality traits may influence quality of life with CF: Study

Knowing more about personality's effect in CF could help inform patient care

Lindsey Shapiro, PhD avatar

by Lindsey Shapiro, PhD |

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The personality traits of people with  cystic fibrosis (CF) might influence their health-related quality of life (HRQoL), according to a recent study.

Scientists found that patients could be clustered into two distinct personality groups and that self-reported quality of life differed significantly between them.

The findings, published in “How personality influences health outcomes and quality of life in adult patients with cystic fibrosis” in BMC Pulmonary Medicinemean patients with certain accentuated personality traits might be more vulnerable to life quality declines when living with a chronic disease, and thus, “may benefit from psychological support.”

HRQoL, or the impacts of a person’s health on their ability to live a fulfilling life, can be significantly diminished in people with chronic diseases like CF, who routinely undergo serious health challenges. HRQoL is influenced by a number of factors, including medical status, mental health, and social integration.

It’s also been recognized that personality — each person’s unique pattern of characteristics and behaviors — may have a substantial impact on how they respond to stress and can influence life quality for people with chronic disease. But the potential role personality plays in patients’ health and life quality hasn’t been fully explored, according to the researchers.

“Knowledge about personality traits in [people with CF] could help to individualize and thereby increase the effectiveness of supportive interventions,” said the scientists who assessed disease status, personality, and quality of life among 70 adult patients at a center in Germany between January 2019 and March 2020. The participants, 41 men and 29 women, had a mean age of 32.7.

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Quality of life and personality

Personality was assessed with a standardized questionnaire called PSSI, which contains 140 questions answered on a scale of strongly disagree to strongly agree.

Across several parts of the PSSI, patients showed either significantly higher or lower scores than average on those scales.

These don’t suggest a fully developed personality disorder, but rather that this population may have certain “accentuated”  personality traits, according to the researchers.

No specific personality trait was associated with clinical factors, including lung function, life quality, body mass index (a measure of body fat), or adherence to therapy.

Patients were split into two groups of five distinct traits: negativistic (pessimism/resistance to others’ suggestions), schizoid (disinterest in social relationships), borderline (difficulty regulating emotion), depressed, and paranoid (being on guard).

A group of 29 participants (41.4%) tended to have lower scores for the traits, meaning they weren’t as dominant, whereas the remaining patients had a higher score, meaning the traits were more accentuated.

The patients in whom the traits were less accentuated were found to have higher quality of life than those in whom the traits were accentuated. Other health outcomes didn’t differ between the groups.

The researchers interpreted the findings as meaning that patients belonging to the cluster with lower scores for those five traits might be more “psychologically adjusted,” whereas those in the other group are “vulnerable” to life quality declines.

While the reasons underlying the relationship aren’t clear, the scientists suggested it could be related to resilience, or the ability to “bounce back” from adversity and to cope well with difficult situations.

“We assume that [people with CF] of the psychologically adjusted personality cluster could have developed a high level of resilience in dealing with stressors related to their illness,” the researchers wrote, adding their analysis was limited because other factors that could influence quality of life, such as psychiatric disorders, were not recorded. Also, the number of participants was too small to “detect the complexities in the relationship between personality and HRQoL and physiological outcomes.”

More research would help to better understand the role of personality in CF and how this may inform patient care, the researchers said. “For more targeted psychological support, future studies need to … address risk and protective factors contributing to developing certain personality traits,” they said.