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Alcohol use and personality trait change: pooled analysis of six cohort studies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2018

Christian Hakulinen*
Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland
Markus Jokela
Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland
Author for correspondence: Christian Hakulinen, E-mail:



Personality has been associated with alcohol use, but less is known about how alcohol use may influence long-term personality trait change.


The present study examines associations between alcohol use and change in the five major personality traits across two measurement occasions (mean follow-up of 5.6 years). A total of 39 722 participants (54% women) were pooled from six cohort studies for an individual-participant meta-analysis. Alcohol use was measured as (1) average alcohol consumption, (2) frequency of binge drinking, (3) symptoms of alcohol use disorder, and (4) a global indicator of risky alcohol use. Changes in the five major personality traits (extraversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience) were used as outcomes.


Risky alcohol use was associated with increasing extraversion [0.25 T-scores over the mean follow-up of 5.6 years; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.07–0.44] and decreasing emotional stability (−0.28; 95% CI −0.48 to −0.08), agreeableness (−0.67; 95% CI −0.87 to −0.36), and conscientiousness (−0.58; 95% CI −0.79 to −0.38). Except the association between alcohol use and extraversion, these associations were consistent across cohort studies and across different measures of alcohol use.


These findings suggest that alcohol use is associated with personality trait changes in adulthood.

Original Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 

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