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The Effect of Non-Cognitive Traits on Health Behaviours in Adolescence


  • Mendolia, Silvia

    () (University of Wollongong)

  • Walker, Ian

    () (Lancaster University)


This paper investigates the relationship between personality traits in adolescence and health behaviours using a large and recent cohort study. In particular, we investigate the impact of locus of control, self-esteem and conscientiousness at age 15-16, on the incidence of health behaviours such as: alcohol consumption; cannabis and other drug use; unprotected and early sexual activity; and sports and physical activity. We use matching methods to control for a very rich set of adolescent and family characteristics and we find that personality traits do affect health behaviours. In particular, individuals with external locus of control, or with low self-esteem, or with low levels of conscientiousness are more likely to engage in health-risky behaviours.

Suggested Citation

  • Mendolia, Silvia & Walker, Ian, 2013. "The Effect of Non-Cognitive Traits on Health Behaviours in Adolescence," IZA Discussion Papers 7301, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7301

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Arendt, Jacob Nielsen, 2005. "Does education cause better health? A panel data analysis using school reforms for identification," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 149-160, April.
    2. Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. & Kassenboehmer, Sonja C. & Schurer, Stefanie, 2014. "Healthy habits: The connection between diet, exercise, and locus of control," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 1-28.
    3. Anderson, Lisa R. & Mellor, Jennifer M., 2008. "Predicting health behaviors with an experimental measure of risk preference," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 1260-1274, September.
    4. Marco Caliendo & Deborah A. Cobb-Clark & Arne Uhlendorff, 2015. "Locus of Control and Job Search Strategies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(1), pages 88-103, March.
    5. Ngina Chiteji, 2010. "Time Preference, Noncognitive Skills and Well Being across the Life Course: Do Noncognitive Skills Encourage Healthy Behavior?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 200-204, May.
    6. David M. Cutler & Edward Glaeser, 2005. "What Explains Differences in Smoking, Drinking, and Other Health-Related Behaviors?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 238-242, May.
    7. Cutler, David M. & Lleras-Muney, Adriana, 2010. "Understanding differences in health behaviors by education," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-28, January.
    8. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
    9. Martins, Pedro S., 2010. "Can Targeted, Non-Cognitive Skills Programs Improve Achievement? Evidence from EPIS," IZA Discussion Papers 5266, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Almlund, Mathilde & Duckworth, Angela Lee & Heckman, James & Kautz, Tim, 2011. "Personality Psychology and Economics," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
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    12. Hamilton, Hayley A. & Noh, Samuel & Adlaf, Edward M., 2009. "Perceived financial status, health, and maladjustment in adolescence," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(8), pages 1527-1534, April.
    13. Roche, Kathleen M. & Ahmed, Saiffudin & Blum, Robert W., 2008. "Enduring consequences of parenting for risk behaviors from adolescence into early adulthood," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(9), pages 2023-2034, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maclean, Johanna Catherine & Hill, Terrence D., 2015. "Leaving school in an economic downturn and self-esteem across early and middle adulthood," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 1-12.
    2. Caliendo, Marco & Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. & Hennecke, Juliane & Uhlendorff, Arne, 2015. "Job Search, Locus of Control, and Internal Migration," IZA Discussion Papers 9600, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Bryan C. McCannon & John B. Stevens, 2015. "Role of Personality Style on Bargaining Outcomes," Working Papers 15-22, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
    4. Petter Lundborg & Anton Nilsson & Dan-Olof Rooth, 2016. "The health-schooling relationship: evidence from Swedish twins," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(4), pages 1191-1215, October.
    5. Chih-Sheng Hsieh & Hans van Kippersluis, 2015. "Smoking Initiation: Peers and Personality," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 15-093/V, Tinbergen Institute.

    More about this item


    self-esteem; locus of control; personality; health behaviours;

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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