Less conscientiousness is linked to a higher risk of childhood obesity


The researchers published the study covered in this summary on medRxiv.org as a preprint that has not yet been peer reviewed.

Key points to remember

  • Children who scored high on conscientiousness had a significantly reduced risk of childhood obesity, in a meta-analysis of 12 studies, confirming earlier findings.

  • Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism and Openness – the other four personality domains of the Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality – showed no significant association with childhood obesity.

why it matters

  • An estimated 18% of 2- to 19-year-olds in the United States and 7% to 14% of children and adolescents in developing countries suffer from childhood obesity, which puts them at risk for cardiovascular and other diseases later in life. adult. The results of the current study suggest that children with low consciousness may be at increased risk for childhood obesity.

  • Several lines of evidence have indicated that personality traits are closely linked to health behaviors and may be associated with the risk of developing obesity. However, studies exploring the links between personality traits and obesity have produced mixed results.

  • This study is the first to comprehensively summarize the published evidence on the association of personality traits with childhood obesity. The current analysis also looked at three possible ways – via moderation, mediation or confounding – by which personality traits might be linked to the risk of childhood obesity.

  • Identifying ways to prevent and treat childhood obesity that are linked to personality traits requires further research.

study design

  • The researchers identified 12 observational studies published in English or Chinese with approximately 45,000 children aged 3 to 18 that examined associations between personality traits associated with the five personality domains of the FFM (based on questionnaires) and measures of obesity, including body mass index (BMI). ).

  • Based on the personality FFM, the review classified personality traits into one of these five domains:

    • Agreeableness: The tendency to be altruistic and emotionally supportive.

    • Consciousness: The tendency to control oneself, to persevere and to be disciplined according to social norms.

    • Extraversion: Tendency to be sociable, self-confident, and outgoing.

    • Neuroticism: The tendency to be nervous, emotionally unstable, and have a low stress tolerance.

    • Openness: The tendency to be imaginative, curious and creative.

  • The authors categorized compliance, persistence, psychoticism, and self-control as “other personality traits.”

  • Four studies in the review were conducted in America, two in Belgium and one in Australia, China, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands and Norway. They were mainly children between the ages of 6 and 12.

Principle results

  • In five studies that assessed conscientiousness, higher levels of this domain were significantly associated with lower BMI based on both pooled correlation coefficients and pooled standardized mean differences.

  • Analyzes showed no consistent significant associations between extraversion (seven studies), agreeableness (five studies), neuroticism (five studies), or openness (five studies) and childhood obesity.

  • Seven studies assessed associations between personality traits other than the five dimensions included in FFM and childhood obesity. Reduced self-control was significantly related to higher BMI in four studies. Results of a longitudinal study found no significant association between psychoticism and central obesity.


  • The meta-analysis did not include self-control, compliance, and persistence as part of conscientiousness, unlike some previous studies.

  • The new analysis included only studies published in English or Chinese.

  • There may have been a publication bias. Studies that have not found significant associations between personality traits and childhood obesity may not have been published.


This is an abstract of a preprint research study “The Association of Personality Traits with Childhood Obesity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” authored by researchers in the Department of Maternal and Child Health, School of Health Public, Peking University, Beijing, China on medRxiv powered by Medscape. This study has not yet been peer reviewed. The full text of the study is available at medRxiv.org.


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