The American Psychological Association last week released the results of a fascinating study indicating personality may be a key risk factor in preventive health care.

The study found that when it comes to helping young adults avoid serious health problems later in life, assessing their personalities during routine medical exams could prove as useful as recording their family medical histories and smoking habits.

After examining data from a Dunedin, New Zealand health and development study involving 1,037 people born between April 1972 and March 1973, APA researchers found that being conscientious appears to be the best bet for good health among traits known as the “Big Five,” which are the basis for most psychological personality assessments. Along with conscientiousness, the Big Five include extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism and openness to experience. Participants who were more conscientious when they were 26 years old were more likely to be in much better health at age 38 than those who were low in that personality trait, the study found. Among the least conscientious, 45 percent went on to develop multiple health problems by age 38, while just 18 percent of the most conscientious group developed health problems. Understanding that personalities can lead to health risk factors is a fact that should not be overlooked.

Here’s the part we found most compelling.

APA Executive Director Norman B. Anderson, PhD, said the study provides more evidence of the benefits of integrated health care.

“The best health care is one that treats the whole person including how their personality traits impacts their attitudes and behaviors vis-à-vis their health,” he said.

Sound familiar?

Dr. Anderson, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Our model of care is different in that we make our appointments longer so we can look at the whole person and help them take an active role in their own health.

We look at every patient visit as a teachable moment, and at the core of our coaching model is our focus on behavioral change utilizing Motivational Interview techniques, rapid cycle action plans, and recognition of the participant’s “readiness to change.”

Our clinicians are trained in the 4 micro skills of Motivational Interviewing, including open-ended questions, affirmations, reflective listening and summaries.

It’s these tools and others that look at a patient’s personality to guide them on their journey to better health.

Thanks to the study’s authors for giving us the data that backs it up.

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