The Big Five personality traits, perfectionism and their association with mental health among UK students on professional degree programmes

Journal article


Lewis, E and Cardwell, J (2020). The Big Five personality traits, perfectionism and their association with mental health among UK students on professional degree programmes. BMC Psychology. 8 (54). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-020-00423-3
AuthorsLewis, E and Cardwell, J
Abstract

Background: In view of heightened rates of suicide and evidence of poor mental health among healthcare occupational groups, such as veterinarians, doctors, pharmacists and dentists, there has been increasing focus on the students aiming for careers in these fields. It is often proposed that a high proportion of these students may possess personality traits which render them vulnerable to mental ill-health.
Aim: To explore the relationship between the big five personality traits, perfectionism and mental health in UK students undertaking undergraduate degrees in veterinary medicine, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and law.
Methods: A total of 1,744 students studying veterinary medicine, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and law in the UK completed an online questionnaire, which collected data on the big five personality traits (NEO-FFI), perfectionism (Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale), wellbeing (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale), psychological distress (General Health Questionnaire-12), depression (Beck Depression Inventory-II) and suicidal ideation and attempts.
Results: Veterinary, medical and dentistry students were significantly more agreeable than law students, while veterinary students had the lowest perfectionism scores of the five groups studied. High levels of neuroticism and low conscientiousness were predictive of increased mental ill-health in each of the student populations.
Conclusions: The study highlights that the prevailing anecdotal view of professional students possessing maladaptive personality traits that negatively impact on their mental health may be misplaced.

KeywordsStudents; University; Personality; Perfectionism; Mental Health; Healthcare Professionals
Year2020
JournalBMC Psychology
Journal citation8 (54)
PublisherBMC
ISSN2050-7283
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-020-00423-3
Publication dates
Print02 Jun 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted21 May 2020
Deposited29 May 2020
Publisher's version
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File Access Level
Open
Accepted author manuscript
License
File Access Level
Controlled
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