Researchers hypothesize that how people react to daily stressful events partly explains the relationship between personality and health, yet no study has examined longitudinal associations between these factors. The current study focused on the role of negative affect reactivity to daily stressful events as a mediating pathway between personality and physical health outcomes using three waves of data spanning 20 years from a nationwide probability sample of 1,176 adults. Results indicated that negative affect reactivity partially mediated personality and physical health. Wave 1 neuroticism was associated with greater negative affect reactivity at Wave 2, which predicted the development of chronic conditions and functional limitations at Wave 3. Higher conscientiousness at Wave 1 was associated with less negative affect reactivity at Wave 2, which predicted better physical health at Wave 3. These findings highlight the usefulness of using a daily-stress framework for understanding how personality impacts health over time, which has important implications for stress management and disease prevention.
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