Research has shown that a link exists between certain psychological traits and subjective (that is, self-assessed) health. Recent work in health psychology has clearly associated health perceptions with personality characteristics, most notably with the negative emotionality dimension of personality. The degree to which this personality trait influences self-reported oral health is yet to be determined. This study investigated the influence of personality on subjective oral health.
People with certain personality traits (specifically negative emotionality) tend to rate their own health differently to others. Oral health is no exception to this. Those who ”view the glass as half empty” are more likely to be more distressed and unsatisfied with any given situation or state; they also tend to amplify negative experiences, and view the negative side of the world, others, and themselves. The degree to which this personality trait influences self-reported oral health is yet to be determined.
In New Zealand, findings from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study suggested that personality characteristics have an effect on the way individuals perceive their oral health (Thomson et al., 2011a). Investigating the relation between personality and oral health will assist in understanding a public health burden, since substantially more dental visits could be expected from people with these characteristics.
This study looked at the role of personality as a modifying factor when subjective oral health measures are being investigated.
The objectives of this study were to:
(1) Describe the prevalence of xerostomia and dental anxiety, and determine their influence on OHRQoL;
(2) Investigate the association of personality characteristics with OHRQoL, xerostomia, and dental anxiety;
(3) Test the validity of using a short personality scale (the PANAS) alongside other measures of oral health; and
(4) Test the validity of a new dental anxiety measure (the IDAF-4C) in New Zealand.
A cross-sectional study of a representative adult New Zealand sample was undertaken. The questionnaire was mailed to 523 randomly-selected participants. The questionnaire was sent with the cover letter, information sheet, and a free-post envelope. The cover letter requested that the participant be able to read and answer the provided questionnaire and was in the target age range for the study, which was 35-54 years. Data were collected on socio-demographic characteristics, oral and general health care, oral health-related quality of life (OHRQoL), xerostomia, dental anxiety, and the personality characteristics of positive and negative affect (PA and NA, respectively). A total of 253 questionnaires were completed and returned, yielding a 51.8% response rate.
The prevalence of xerostomia was 7.8%. More than half of those with xerostomia reported one or more OHIP-14 impacts “often” or “very often”. The prevalence rates for dental anxiety were 18.6% using the DAS (cut-off point 13), and 13.0% using the IDAF-4C (cut-off point 3). The overall prevalence of 1+ OHIP-14 impacts was 24.1%, while the mean OHIP-14 score was 10.8 (SD=8.1). The highest and most prevalent subscale impacts were those pertaining to psychological discomfort.
Those scoring higher on Negative Emotionality were more likely to report 1+ OHIP-14 impacts. They also had a greater risk of reporting xerostomia or dental anxiety.
There was support for the validity of the IDAF-4C in its associations with not only the DAS scores, but also with the various aspects of dental visiting and self-reported oral health.
Responses to self-report measures can be influenced by particular personality traits. Therefore, it is important to consider this when using and interpreting such measures.||