How personality type could lead to higher health care costs
Can your personality type affect how much you pay for health care? A new study says yes, especially for older adults.
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Public Health Sciences found that a person’s outlook on life can lead them to seek more frequent and often more expensive treatments. The findings were published in the journal, The Milbank Quarterly.
Study leaders are hoping the report will help clinicians lead patients to less expensive treatments that work just as well as their more costly alternatives.
“This is the first study to show that personality traits predispose some older adults to use several expensive acute and long-term care services,” said study author, Bruce Friedman, M.P.H., Ph.D., in a news release. “It is important for health care systems to recognize that personality characteristics are associated with how individuals use health care services, and design interventions that redirect patients towards lower cost solutions to their health problems that are just as effective.”
Analyzing survey responses from more than 1,000 people over the age of 65, researchers assigned participants into five key personality traits that included: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
The links between health care choices and personality types became clear, researchers said, especially visits to the emergency department and length of stay at nursing homes.
Folks who scored high in the “neuroticism” category were nearly 25 percent more likely to visit the ED and more than two times more likely to spend time in a nursing home than those who scored lower on the neuroticism scale, for example.
Additionally, those who scored low on the “openness to experience” scale were 16 percent more likely to rush to the ED for treatment.
Overall, some of the cost of care for those in these categories was 20-30 percent higher than average, study leaders said.
If health care providers were more clued into how personality affects treatment choices, they may be able to prevent “unnecessary ED visits among patients who are high in neuroticism,” researchers said.
“These finding have a range of potential implications in terms of how clinicians and health systems deliver patient-centered care,” Friedman said. “Customizing interventions to a person’s personality profile could be one of the keys to ensuring the appropriate use of health services and containing the continuing rise in health care costs.”
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