Certain personality traits can make food allergy more challenging

Whether individual differences in the big five personality traits (neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness) are related to greater food allergy-related problems in everyday life has been explored by researchers at New Zealand’s University of Otago.

Over 100 adults with diagnosed food allergy participated in the two-week study, completing a daily online survey in relation to 25 food allergy issues, their stress and their mood. Food allergy issues included going hungry because there is no safe food available, problems finding suitable foods when grocery shopping, anxiety during social occasions involving food, being excluded, and feeling embarrassed and poorly understood about their food allergy.

Surprisingly perhaps, findings showed that neuroticism did not lead to more frequent allergy issues or poorer mood on days with more allergy issues. Instead, higher openness to experience was the biggest predictor of more issues.

The authors suggest the demands of coping with a food allergy such as using caution, sticking with a routine and consuming predominantly ‘known’ foods are possibly in direct conflict with the traits of an open personality that craves exploration, variety and novel experiences.

These findings may help people understand how their personality affects the way they cope and manage their food allergy. They may also offer insight for parents about how their child with a food allergy may be being challenged by their condition depending on their personality type.

Reference: Conner et al. 2018 Frontiers in Psychology. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00029

Additional reporting: Science Daily.