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Master of Science




Tremblay, Paul F.


Depression is one of the most common mental disorders worldwide. While multiple etiological factors contribute to depressive symptoms, personality traits have been hypothesized to play a crucial role. To determine the strengths of this association and provide a new approach compared to prior meta-analyses, we conducted a set of meta-analyses to examine the association of the Big-Five personality traits as the most widely accepted personality model and depressive symptoms. We also examined the effects of the facets of each personality dimension in addition to the effects of the moderating variables, including the proportion of females and the type of depression measures, to address the heterogeneity problem of depressive symptoms. A total of two hundred forty-three studies with correlations between personality and depressive symptoms from 2000 to 2022 were included. Depressive symptoms showed a significant positive correlation with Neuroticism and a significant negative correlation with Extraversion, Conscientiousness, and Openness. None of the moderators were found to be significant. While the analyses at the facet level provided valuable information, they should be explored further in the future.

Summary for Lay Audience

Depression is one of the most common chronic mental health problems that can create feelings of sadness, thoughts of hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities. Multiple factors contribute to developing depressive symptoms, and personality traits are among the factors that play an essential role. According to the Five Factor Model, there are five general personality traits (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, and Openness to Experience), and measures of these traits often include facets representing more in-depth aspects of each personality factor. Neuroticism refers to a tendency to experience negative feelings such as sadness, embarrassment, anger, and guilt. Extraversion refers to the extent people are sociable, outgoing, and energetic. Conscientiousness describes the extent to which people are careful, deliberate, self-disciplined, and organized. Agreeableness measures how well individuals get along with others and how they cooperate and interact within a team. Lastly, Openness to Experience describes the extent to which people enjoy new experiences and are imaginative and creative.

In this study, we investigated how these broad personality dimensions and their facets are associated with depressive symptoms. Therefore, we did a systematic search in research databases and gathered studies that had information on the relations between personality traits and symptoms of depression and conducted meta-analyses to provide overall summaries of the strength of these relationships. We also investigated whether the results depended on the specific depressive symptom measures and the gender composition of the samples. We found that depressive symptoms were associated with increases in the personality factor Neuroticism and decreases in all other personality traits. Neuroticism had the strongest and Openness the weakest (close to 0) association with depressive symptoms. Further, no support was found for the influence of the type of depressive symptom measure or gender composition. While the analyses at the facet level provided valuable information, with many relationships that were expected, some of these results were not expected. Given that the facet-level analyses were based on a smaller number of studies (6-10) compared to the number of studies for the personality traits (243), it is recommended that future studies include facet-level information.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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