Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2018

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Objectives: The current study examined race/gender disparities in initial levels and trajectories of self-reported physical and mental health, and health care utilization, as well as the impact of personality and stressful life events on race/gender disparities. We hypothesized that health disparities would remain stable or decrease over time; that at-risk personality traits (e.g., high neuroticism) would have a more robust negative impact on health for black participants; that trust would mediate racial disparities in health; and that personality traits would moderate the association between stressful life events and health trajectories differentially across race/gender. Methods: Analyses utilized the first six waves of data from a representative sample of 1,577 Black and White adults (mean age 60) recruited from the greater St. Louis area. Participants were assessed every 6 months for 2.5 years. Using multigroup latent growth curve modeling, we examined initial levels and changes in health among White men (n=482), White women (n=578), Black men (n=226), and Black women (n=291). Results: Black participants reported lower initial physical health than White participants. Womenճ physical health was stable over time whereas menճ declined. Men reported greater initial health care use than women, and this difference remained stable over time. There were no disparities in self-reported mental health. Neuroticism was associated with worse health across groups, while race/gender moderated associations of openness with mental health. Lower baseline levels of interpersonal trust among Black participants mediated racial disparities in physical and mental health 2.5 years later. Personality traits did not moderate associations between stressful life events and health trajectories. Conclusions: Race and gender influence health trajectories and personality-health associations. Interpersonal trust may be an important mechanism contributing to racial health disparities.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Thomas F. Oltmanns

Committee Members

Joshua J. Jackson, Ryan Bogdan, Vetta L. Sanders-Thompson, Sherman A. James,


Permanent URL: 2019-02-22