Statewide Differences in Personality Associated with Geographic Disparities in Access to Palliative Care: Findings on Openness

Michael Hoerger, Laura M. Perry, Brittany D. Korotkin, Leah E. Walsh, Adina S. Kazan, James L. Rogers, Wasef Atiya, Sonia Malhotra, James I. Gerhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Geographic disparities in access to palliative care cause unnecessary suffering near the end-of-life in low-access U.S. states. The psychological mechanisms accounting for state-level variation are poorly understood. Objective: To examine whether statewide differences in personality account for variation in palliative care access. Design: We combined 5 state-level datasets that included the 50 states and national capital. Palliative care access was measured by the Center to Advance Palliative Care 2015 state-by-state report card. State-level personality differences in openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, and extraversion were identified in a report on 619,387 adults. The Census and Gallup provided covariate data. Regression analyses examined whether state-level personality predicted state-level palliative care access, controlling for population size, age, gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and political views. Sensitivity analyses controlled for rurality, nonprofit status, and hospital size. Results: Palliative care access was higher in states that were older, less racially diverse, higher in socioeconomic status, more liberal, and, as hypothesized, higher in openness. In regression analyses accounting for all predictors and covariates, higher openness continued to account for better state-level access to palliative care (β = 0.428, p = 0.008). Agreeableness also emerged as predicting better access. In sensitivity analyses, personality findings persisted, and less rural states and those with more nonprofits had better access. Conclusions: Palliative care access is worse in states lower in openness, meaning where residents are more skeptical, traditional, and concrete. Personality theory offers recommendations for palliative care advocates communicating with administrators, legislators, philanthropists, and patients to expand access in low-openness states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)628-634
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • advocacy
  • health disparities
  • palliative care
  • personality
  • policy


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