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Leukocyte telomere length and personality: associations with the Big Five and Type D personality traits

  • D. Schoormans (a1) (a2), J. E. Verhoeven (a2), J. Denollet (a1), L. van de Poll-Franse (a1) (a3) (a4) and B. W. J. H. Penninx (a2)...



Accelerated cellular ageing, which can be examined by telomere length (TL), may be an overarching mechanism underlying the association between personality and adverse health outcomes. This 6-year longitudinal study examined the relation between personality and leukocyte telomere length (LTL) across time among adults with a wide age-range.


Data from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety were used and included patients with a depression and/or anxiety disorder and healthy controls. Overall, 2936 persons (18–65 years, 66% female) had data on LTL at baseline and 1883 persons had LTL at 6-year follow-up. The Big Five personality traits (neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness) and Type D personality were assessed.


Neuroticism was negatively (B = −2.11, p = 0.03) and agreeableness was positively (B = 3.84, p = 0.03) related to LTL measured across two time points, which became just non-significant after adjusting for somatic health, lifestyle factors, and recent life stress (B = −1.99, p = 0.06; and B = 3.01, p = 0.10). Type D personality was negatively (B = −50.16, p < 0.01) related to LTL across two time points, which still remained statistically significant after full adjustment (B = −47.37, p = 0.01). Associations did not differ by age, gender, and current psychiatric status.


The Big Five traits high neuroticism and low agreeableness, and Type D personality were associated with shorter LTL measured across a 6-year period. Associations with the Big Five traits became non-significant after controlling for somatic health, lifestyle factors, and recent life stress, yet similar trends were observed. Type D personality remained independently associated with shorter LTL after full adjustment.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: D. Schoormans, Ph.D., Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology, Tilburg University, PO Box 90153, 5000 LE, Tilburg, The Netherlands. (Email:


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Leukocyte telomere length and personality: associations with the Big Five and Type D personality traits

  • D. Schoormans (a1) (a2), J. E. Verhoeven (a2), J. Denollet (a1), L. van de Poll-Franse (a1) (a3) (a4) and B. W. J. H. Penninx (a2)...


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