BACKGROUND: Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is on the rise among young adults (aged 20-39 years). A challenge for health risk communication is that young adults may not be aware or lack acknowledgement of their personal risk of developing T2D. To date, no knowledge is available on potential relationships between personality traits and T2D risk perception in this target group. This cross-sectional study aimed to investigate direct and indirect (mediated via health-related behaviours and body mass index) associations between the Five-Factor Model personality traits and T2D risk perception among university students in Denmark.
METHODS: Participants included 1205 students (80% females; mean age = 25) from five major universities. All variables were assessed by means of self-report in an online questionnaire. Health-related behaviours included physical activity, sweets consumption and prior T2D screening. Covariates included socio-demographic factors and family history of T2D.
RESULTS: A hierarchical multiple regression analysis revealed that higher levels of conscientiousness and emotional stability were directly negatively associated with T2D risk perception after controlling for covariates, health-related behaviours, and body mass index. Binary logistic regression analyses showed several significant associations between personality traits and health-related behaviours as well as body mass index. Sobel tests indicated that both physical activity and body mass index partially mediated the association between conscientiousness and T2D risk perception. The association between extraversion and T2D risk perception was fully mediated by PA.
CONCLUSIONS: We present novel evidence suggesting that personality traits, health-related behaviours and body mass index are associated with T2D risk perception among young adults. Thus, it may be beneficial to tailor health risk communications targeting T2D to match recipients' personality characteristics instead of using the one size fits all approach.