Associations of openness and conscientiousness with walking speed decline: Findings from the health, aging, and body composition study

Magdalena I. Tolea, Paul T. Costa, Antonio Terracciano, Luigi Ferrucci, Kimberly Faulkner, Mathilda C. Coday, Hilsa N. Ayonayon, Eleanor M. Simonsick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objectives.The objective of this study was to explore the associations between openness to experience and conscientiousness, two dimensions of the five-factor model of personality, and usual gait speed and gait speed decline.Method.Baseline analyses were conducted on 907 men and women aged 71-82 years participating in the Cognitive Vitality substudy of the Health, Aging, and Body Composition study. The longitudinal analytic sample consisted of 740 participants who had walking speed assessed 3 years later.Results.At baseline, gait speed averaged 1.2 m/s, and an average decline of 5% over the 3-year follow-up period was observed. Higher conscientiousness was associated with faster initial walking speed and less decline in walking speed over the study period, independent of sociodemographic characteristics. Lifestyle factors and disease status appear to play a role in the baseline but not the longitudinal association between conscientiousness and gait speed. Openness was not associated with either initial or decline in gait speed.Discussion.These findings extend the body of evidence suggesting a protective association between conscientiousness and physical function to performance-based assessment of gait speed. Future studies are needed to confirm these associations and to explore mechanisms that underlie the conscientiousness mobility connection in aging adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)705-711
Number of pages7
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Volume67 B
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic conditions
  • Conscientiousness
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Openness to experience
  • Walking speed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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