Personality traits prior to the onset of illness or disability may influence how well an individual psychologically adjusts after the illness or disability has occurred. Previous research has shown that after the onset of a disability, people initially experience sharp drops in life satisfaction, and the ability to regain lost life satisfaction is at best partial. However, such research has not investigated the role of individual differences in adaptation to disability.
We suggest that pre-disability personality determines the speed and extent of adaptation. We analyzed measures of personality traits in a sample of 11,680 individuals, 307 of whom became disabled over a 4-year period. We show that although becoming disabled has a severe impact on life satisfaction, this effect is significantly moderated by pre-disability personality. After 4 years of disability, moderately agreeable individuals had levels of life satisfaction 0.32 standard deviations higher than those of moderately disagreeable individuals. Agreeable individuals adapt more quickly and fully to disability; disagreeable individuals may need additional support to adapt.
- subjective well-being