Exploring the association between the "big five" personality traits and fatal opioid overdose: County-level empirical analysis

Zhasmina Tacheva, Anton Ivanov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Opioid-related deaths constitute a problem of pandemic proportions in the United States, with no clear solution in sight. Although addressing addiction-the heart of this problem-ought to remain a priority for health practitioners, examining the community-level psychological factors with a known impact on health behaviors may provide valuable insights for attenuating this health crisis by curbing risky behaviors before they evolve into addiction. Objective: The goal of this study is twofold: To demonstrate the relationship between community-level psychological traits and fatal opioid overdose both theoretically and empirically, and to provide a blueprint for using social media data to glean these psychological factors in a real-time, reliable, and scalable manner. Methods: We collected annual panel data from Twitter for 2891 counties in the United States between 2014-2016 and used a novel data mining technique to obtain average county-level "Big Five" psychological trait scores. We then performed interval regression, using a control function to alleviate omitted variable bias, to empirically test the relationship between county-level psychological traits and the prevalence of fatal opioid overdoses in each county. Results: After controlling for a wide range of community-level biopsychosocial factors related to health outcomes, we found that three of the operationalizations of the five psychological traits examined at the community level in the study were significantly associated with fatal opioid overdoses: Extraversion (β=.308, P<.001), neuroticism (β=.248, P<.001), and conscientiousness (β=.229, P<.001). Conclusions: Analyzing the psychological characteristics of a community can be a valuable tool in the local, state, and national fight against the opioid pandemic. Health providers and community health organizations can benefit from this research by evaluating the psychological profile of the communities they serve and assessing the projected risk of fatal opioid overdose based on the relationships our study predict when making decisions for the allocation of overdose-reversal medication and other vital resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere24939
JournalJMIR Mental Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Addiction
  • Community health
  • Opioid
  • Opioid addiction
  • Personality traits
  • Psychological
  • Text mining

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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