|Abstract or Summary
- Caregiving circumstances frequently evoke high levels of stress for caregivers and have consistently been linked to adverse psychological and physical health consequences. Within the caregiving literature, researchers have sought to answer questions about why some individuals seem to be particularly vulnerable to the well-established deleterious consequences of caregiving stress. Several studies have found that personality traits are linked with physical health outcomes in caregivers. Past research, however, has not examined this relationship longitudinally, nor has it included aspects of personality beyond traits (i.e., the Big-Five: neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience). Thus, the overall goals of this study are twofold: (a) to better understand the link between stressful caregiving situations and health outcomes by investigating the impact of both personality traits and states on physical health outcomes, and (b) to utilize two well-defined groups of caregivers to investigate whether contextual variables are related to perceived physical health outcomes of caregivers over time. The project, "Health of Caregivers: The Role of Personality" provided the data for this study. Caregivers were interviewed in their homes between 1991 and 1992, and were sent mail-back questionnaires approximately one year later between 1992 and 1994. Caregivers who participated at both Time 1 and Time 2 were included in this study (n = 122). To explore the potential link between caregiver personality and contextual variables at Time 1 with perceived physical health at Time 2, hierarchical linear regressions were performed. Before adding state anxiety into the final model, individuals who scored high in neuroticism at Time 1 experienced worse physical health at Time 2. Surprisingly, individuals who scored high in openness to experience also experienced worse physical health at Time 2. Consistent with hypotheses, state anxiety significantly added to the predictive power of perceived physical health at Time 2, over and above contextual variables and the Big-Five personality traits. Individuals who scored high in state anxiety at Time 1 experienced worse perceived physical health at Time 2. The study findings demonstrate that a broader approach to personality is valuable to better identify vulnerable caregivers. Little is known regarding the trait of openness to experience in the caregiving and general populations. Caregivers who score high in openness to experience may feel "trapped" in their intensive caregiving situations, which may influence mental and physical health outcomes. Future research should further investigate both openness to experience, in particular, and more state-like aspects of personality to enhance interventions that successfully target at-risk caregivers.