Scholarship 11

11th Annual Scholarship (April 2010)

​             made to  Dr. Gareth Hagger-Johnson from England

on the subject of Personality traits and cognitive function in the UK Women's Cohort Study

Report Abstract (689 words):

The UK Women's Cohort study (UKWCS) is one of the largest UK cohort studies. It was set up to investigate associations between nutrition, cancer and coronary heart disease (Cade, Burley & Greenwood, 2004). Approximately 98% of cohort participants are linked with NHS Central Registry, which provides information about vital status and cancer registrations. Evidence to date from the cohort includes the association between dietary patterns and cancer (Taylor, Burley, Greenwood & Cade, 2007), the costs of a healthy diet (Cade, Upmeier, Calvert & Greenwood, 1999), motivations for eating healthily (Pollard, Greenwood, Kirk & Cade, 2002) and the determinants of vitamin supplement usage (Conner, Kirk, Cade & Barrett, 2001).

Controlling for confounding factors, such as lifestyle and personality characteristics, is a challenge for nutritional epidemiology. Personality traits and cognitive ability may be associated with nutritional behaviours, and with disease outcomes. This study tested the acceptability to UKWCS participants of internet-mediated cognitive testing, and two personality inventories: the 48-item EPQ-R S (Eysenck, Eysenck & Barrett, 1985) and the 80-item ‘Big Five’ adjective pairs (McCrae & Costa, 1985). A total of 10,518 surviving participants were not cancer registered, and had participated in previous waves of data collection. Of these, 2000 (age range 49 to 86) were randomly invited to complete a paper questionnaire (EPQ-R S, Big Five) and internet-mediated reaction time task (Reimers & Stewart, 2007).

Data from the first 500 invited to participate indicate a response rate of 46.8%, which should increase following written reminder letters (4.6% were not contactable and 1 participant withdrew). Responders were more likely to live in urban areas compared to rural (OR = 1.92, 95% CI 1.21 to 3.04), but did not differ from non-responders by age or socio-economic deprivation score (Index of Multiple Deprivation, 2007). One participant declined to complete the personality inventories.  For the internet-mediated reaction time task, 136 (61.0%) provided a valid reaction time score.

A clear age gradient illustrated higher levels of participation among younger age groups: under 55 (84%), 55 to 65 (70%), 65 to 75 (61%), 75 or higher (13.8%). In a logistic regression model, not participating in the internet task was significantly (p < .05) associated with older age (OR = 0.84, 95% CI 0.77 to .91) and higher socio-economic deprivation (OR = 0.71, 95% CI 0.50 to 0.99), holding urbanicity constant. Self-reported psychological distress during testing was minimal (71% ‘not at all’, 9% ‘mild’) and the task was rated ‘very’ to ‘somewhat easy’ by 97.2% (2.2% endorsed ‘somewhat to very difficult’). The results illustrate that the EPQ-R S and the Big Five adjective pairs are universally acceptable to this cohort. Providing adjustment is made for non-ignorable missing data patterns, internet-mediated cognitive testing would achieve a reasonable response rate in UKWCS, rising above 70% for women under 65.


Cade, J. E., Burley, V. J., & Greenwood, D. C. (2004). The UK Women's Cohort Study: comparison of vegetarians, fish-eaters and meat-eaters. Public Health Nutrition, 7(7), 871-878.

Cade, J., Upmeier, H., Calvert, C., & Greenwood, D. (1999). Costs of a healthy diet: analysis from the UK Women's Cohort Study. Public Health Nutrition, 2(4), 505-512.

Conner, M., Kirk, S. F., Cade, J. E., & Barrett, J. H. (2001). Why do women use dietary supplements? The use of the theory of planned behaviour to explore beliefs about their use. Social Science & Medicine, 52(4), 621-633.

Eysenck, S., Eysenck, H., & Barrett, P. (1985). A revised version of the psychoticism scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 6(1), 21-29.

McCrae, R. R. & Costa, P. T. (1985). Updating Norman's “Adequate Taxonomy”: intelligence and personality dimensions in natural language and in questionnaires. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49(3), 710-721.

Pollard, J., Greenwood, D., Kirk, S. & Cade, J. (2002). Motivations for fruit and vegetable consumption in the UK Women's Cohort Study. Public Health Nutrition, 5(3), 479-486.

Reimers, S. & Stewart, N. (2007). Adobe Flash as a medium for online experimentation: A test of reaction time measurement capabilities. Behavior Research Methods, 39(3), 365-370.

Taylor, E. F., Burley, V. J., Greenwood, D. C., & Cade, J. E. (2007). Meat consumption and risk of breast cancer in the UK Women's Cohort Study. British Journal of Cancer, 96(7), 1139-1146.