First study published connecting challenges of food allergies with personality traits

February 13, 2018 by Mark Hathaway, University of Otago
First study published connecting challenges of food allergies with personality traits
University of Otago research has shown that personality traits can impact those living with food allergies. Credit: Creative Commons

University of Otago researchers have broken new ground in the area of food allergies, with a study showing that personality traits impact people living with a food allergy published in the international medical journal Frontiers in Psychology.

The interdisciplinary team of researchers from Otago's Department of Psychology (Dr. Tamlin Conner) and the Department of Food Science (Dr. Rana Peniamina, Dr. Miranda Mirosa, and Professor Phil Bremer) wanted to investigate the challenges that adults with food allergies face managing their condition in daily life, and whether certain traits made these challenges even greater.

Lead author Dr. Tamlin Conner says "This paper addresses this question by investigating whether individual differences in the big five personality traits (neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness) are related to food allergy-related problems in everyday life."

For two weeks, 108 adult participants with a physician-diagnosed food allergy completed a daily online survey that queried the occurrence of 25 food allergy issues each day and their stress and mood. Dr. Conner says the findings went against the research team's hypothesis.

"We were surprised 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, which included going hungry because there is no safe food available, problems finding suitable foods when grocery shopping, anxiety at social occasions involving food, being excluded, and feeling embarrassed and poorly understood about their food allergy."

"It appears the demands of coping with a food allergy – requiring caution, routine and consumption of known foods – might be in direct conflict with the open personality that craves exploration, variety and novel experiences", Dr. Conner adds.

She hopes the findings will help people understand how their personality affects the way they cope and manage their food allergy.

"For example, 'open' people could try to channel their desire for variety in other directions instead of food, like music or film. They could also have 'back-up food' available in case they wanted to do something spontaneous. Our findings might also help parents understand how their child with a food allergy may be being impacted. For example, open children might be more likely to want to try new foods, which could put them at risk. Knowing their child's personality, a parent could look to mitigate those impacts to reduce their frequency."

National charitable organisation Allergy New Zealand says food allergy can create significant burden for many people, and welcomes the study bringing further knowledge to the condition.

"It [the study] highlights the complexities facing adults managing food allergy, in a New Zealand context, as well also from a unique perspective. Helping people understand how their might help or hinder their management of food , could improve their quality of life," says Mark Dixon, Chief Executive of Allergy New Zealand.

Solid prevalence data on in New Zealand is not available, however based on international estimates it is likely to be around 5 percent of the population overall, with higher rates in children under 5 years (up to 10 percent). Data also indicates food allergies have been increasing in prevalence over the last 20-30 years. Hospital admissions for -induced anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction) have also increased, with admissions in children increasing a near 3-fold in the 10 years to 2015; and 1.7 fold in adults in a similar time frame.

Explore further: Almost half of food allergies in adults appear in adulthood

More information: Tamlin S. Conner et al. The Role of Personality in Daily Food Allergy Experiences, Frontiers in Psychology (2018). DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00029

Related Stories

Almost half of food allergies in adults appear in adulthood

October 27, 2017
When people think of food allergies, it's mostly in relation to children. New late-breaking research being presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting shows that almost ...

Bacterial colonization linked to food sensitization, allergy

June 27, 2017
(HealthDay)—There is a correlation between bacterial colonization and food sensitization and allergy in young children, according to a study published online June 20 in Allergy.

New study suggests 21 percent increase in childhood peanut allergy since 2010

October 27, 2017
Parents often worry about peanut allergies because the reaction to peanuts can be very severe. New late-breaking research being presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific ...

Study shows oral food challenges are safe for diagnosing food allergies

September 7, 2017
The best way to find out if someone has a food allergy is through an oral food challenge (OFC) where the person is given a very small dose of the food by mouth under the supervision of a board-certified allergist to test ...

Researchers find link between food allergies and childhood anxiety

June 29, 2017
Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Albert Einstein College of Medicine studied the link between food allergy and childhood anxiety and depression among a sample of predominantly low socioeconomic ...

Moms and dads of kids with food allergies think they're allergic too

October 12, 2016
When testing for food allergies, allergists often ask about family history. If your parents have food allergies, the chances are higher that you too will have them. Problem is, not everyone who reports a food allergy actually ...

Recommended for you

Research reveals stronger people have healthier brains

April 19, 2018
A study of nearly half a million people has revealed that muscular strength, measured by handgrip, is an indication of how healthy our brains are.

Overcoming bias about music takes work

April 18, 2018
Expectations and biases play a large role in our experiences. This has been demonstrated in studies involving art, wine and even soda. In 2007, Joshua Bell, an internationally acclaimed musician, illustrated the role context ...

Study suggests we can recognize speakers only from how faces move when talking

April 18, 2018
Results of a new study by cognitive psychologist and speech scientist Alexandra Jesse and her linguistics undergraduate student Michael Bartoli at the University of Massachusetts Amherst should help to settle a long-standing ...

Scientists disconfirm belief that humans' physiological reaction to emotions are uniform

April 18, 2018
How do you feel when you're angry? Tense? Jittery? Exhausted? Is it the same every time? Is it identical to how your best friend, co-worker, or barista feel when they experience anger? In all likelihood the answer is no, ...

How mental health diagnosis should be more collaborative

April 18, 2018
Mental health diagnosis should be a collaborative and useful process, not a meaningless label - according to new research from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and the University of East Anglia.

Does pot really dull a teen's brain?

April 18, 2018
Pot-smoking teens may not be dooming themselves to a destiny of dim-wittedness, a new review suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.