Some personality types are more likely to receive nursing home care, researchers find

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Seniors who fit a particular personality profile are more than twice as likely to receive long-term care in a nursing home, according to newly published research in The Milbank Quarterly.

Researchers from various institutions, including the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Public Health Sciences and the University of Chicago, examined data from 1,000 seniors participating in a Medicare demonstration project. Based on a self-report questionnaire, these seniors were classified under five personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness. These are traits commonly used as a conceptual framework by psychologists.

Based on participants' healthcare use over a two-year period, the researchers determined that those scoring high for neuroticism were more than twice as likely to spend time in a nursing home. These are seniors who are more likely to feel angry, anxious, depressed or vulnerable, according to the researchers.

A higher “openness to experience” score indicated a greater likelihood of home care use, according to researchers.

The findings support the idea that interventions tailored to different types of people could reduce the use of unnecessary high-cost care, the researchers stated.

Funds from the National Institute on Aging and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services supported the research.