Association of Late Adolescent Personality With Risk for Subsequent Serious Mental Illness Among Men in a Swedish Nationwide Cohort Study

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Understanding of personality as an independent risk factor for serious mental illness (SMI) remains limited. Recently, overlap between the polygenic basis for specific personality traits and specific SMIs has been identified.


To determine the association of the adolescent personality domains of social maturity, mental energy, and emotional stability with later diagnosis of SMI.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This longitudinal cohort study enrolled Swedish male military conscripts aged 18 or 19 years from January 1, 1974, through December 31, 1997. The diagnosis of an SMI was extracted from the National Patient Register for all inpatient treatment episodes in Sweden from January 1, 1974, through December 31, 2011. Data were analyzed from May 3 to September 16, 2016.


Social maturity, mental energy, and emotional stability assessed at conscription interview.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Inpatient diagnoses of bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, and other nonaffective psychoses occurring until December 31, 2011.


Of the 1 017 691 men included in the cohort, 4310 developed bipolar disorder; 784, schizoaffective disorder; 4823, schizophrenia; and 5013, other nonaffective psychoses. After adjustment, with use of mean scores as a reference, low social maturity (hazard ratio [HR], 1.61; 95% CI, 1.48-1.74), low mental energy (HR, 1.34; 95% CI, 1.24-1.44), and low emotional stability (HR, 1.51; 95% CI, 1.40-1.63) were inversely associated with schizophrenia in a dose-dependent fashion. Other nonaffective psychoses displayed a similar pattern. Bipolar disorder was associated with high (HR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.09-1.35) and low (HR, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.01-1.25) social maturity and low emotional stability (HR, 1.62; 95% CI, 1.46-1.78). Schizoaffective disorder was associated with low emotional stability (HR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.26-1.85).

Conclusions and Relevance

Emotional stability is inversely associated with all SMI. Bipolar disorder has a unique U-shaped association with social maturity. Premorbid personality may reflect subtle changes in cerebral function, may combine with symptoms and other neurocognitive deficits to influence illness presentation, and/or may be owing to shared genetic architecture.

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