Relationships Between Personality Traits and Perceived Stress in Surrogate Decision-Makers of Intensive Care Unit Patients

Brody Greenleaf, Andrew Foy, Lauren Van Scoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Personality traits, specifically neuroticism, are related to stress in surrogate decision-makers (SDMs) in outpatient settings. We hypothesized that intrinsic traits are related to SDM stress in the intensive care unit (ICU) to determine if personality considerations should be included in interventions to support SDMs. Methods: Eligible participants (adult SDMs of non-capacitated ICU patients) completed validated questionnaires including stress (Impact of Events Scale-Revised, IES-R) and personality (Big Five Inventory, BFI) within 72 hours of ICU admission and again at 3 months post-ICU discharge (in addition to a qualitative interview). Bivariate Pearson correlations explored the relationship between BFI and IES-R at each time point (95% CI) and t-tests explored the relationship between stress and COVID-19. Mixed-methods analysis integrated qualitative and quantitative data. Results: Of 32 SDMs, 71.9% were female, 93.8% white, and 97.0% were family members. Neuroticism was not significantly correlated to IES-R at 72 hours (r = 0.09; p = 0.64), but r increased 3 months post-discharge (r = 0.32; p = 0.07). Other BFI traits did not show similar patterns. Total stress was greater in surrogates of COVID-19-positive patients (COVID-19-positive: 60.6; COVID-19-negative: 49.8; p = 0.025). Mixed-methods analysis demonstrated that participants with high neuroticism scores had poorer emotional regulation than those with low neuroticism scores. Conclusions: This study supports that personality, particularly neuroticism, influences the stress of SDMs in the ICU. Further study of personality traits may identify surrogates who are at higher risk of stress-related disorders, which can guide future interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)664-672
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine

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