A new study has recently revealed that conscientious kids are less likely to smoke later in life. It was also mentioned that the personality trait could help explain the health inequalities.
It had been well known that people belonging to lower socio-economic groups have lower life expectancy and more health problems than those who are in higher groups, and certain health behaviors, such as smoking, follow a similar pattern, suggesting they could be partly responsible for health inequalities.
Recently, certain personality traits have been found to be associated with health outcomes and health behaviors and to follow a similar social gradient to smoking and health outcomes. In particular, conscientiousness, the tendency to be self-controlled, dutiful, reliable and achievement oriented, has been linked to longer life expectancy and certain health behaviours. However, it has not been clear whether conscientiousness was a cause or consequence of social inequalities.
Childhood conscientiousness was found to be a significant predictor of smoking at 50 years explaining 5 percent of the social gradient in prevalence of the habit after these influencing factors had been taken into account.
The authors acknowledged that the study has several limitations, including that many participants in the National Child Development Study were lost to follow up over time, with smokers and those of lower social status and lower conscientiousness scores less likely to have completed the 50-year assessment.
In addition, other factors which could have had an influence on smoking behavior, such as parental smoking and smoking-related medical issues, were not taken into account. The study is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.