An examination of the role of self-control in the health and wealth connection

Werstein, Kira
Major Professor
Amy S. Welch
Committee Member
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Obesity and consumer debt have drastically risen in the last 30 years. A recent longitudinal study of children and young adults demonstrated that Self-Control (SC: the ability to delay gratification, control emotions and behaviors, and persist despite set-backs) may underlie these health-wealth trends. More research is needed to better understand the possible mediators of the SC and health-wealth relationship and the effects on quality of life (QOL) in adults. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine personality and behavioral management practices underpinning the relationship between health, wealth, and QOL. A series of three studies were conducted: 1) a comparison of SC among adults with different health and wealth statuses, independent of income, age, and education, 2) an examination of the relationships between SC, exercise behaviors and financial behaviors, and, 3) testing of a model of SC, behaviors, and outcomes as predictors of QOL related to health and personal finance. Data were collected with an online survey sent via email to 40,000 alumni from a Midwest university. Completed responses were received from 1,115 participants (age = 54.5 ± 11.4; 58.2 % male). SC was measured using the International Personality Item Pool and the Impulsivity Questionnaire. Health outcomes were measured by body mass index (weight kg/height m2) and self-rated health (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey). Wealth outcomes were assessed by calculating net worth (sum of assets - sum of debt). QOL was measured by the health-related QOL question (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey) and the Financial Satisfaction Questionnaire. Study one demonstrated (as hypothesized) that SC was significantly higher among healthier (F (2, 1293) = 17.5, d = .31) and higher net worth groups (F (2, 1318) = 11.36, d = .23, p < .001) when controlling for income, age, and education. Study two showed that SC positively and significantly predicted exercise behavior (β = .11, t(1,315) = 3.54, p < .001) and financial behavior (β = .40, t(1,315) = 15.37, p < .001). Study three showed that SC significantly and indirectly predicted financial QOL. The relationship was significantly mediated by financial behaviors and net worth (R2 = .35, p < .001). SC also significantly, indirectly and directly, predicted health-related QOL. This relationship was significantly mediated by exercise and physical health (R2 = .03, p < .001). The results of this research demonstrated that people with higher SC, who set goals, make a plan, and execute it despite setbacks, reported that living intentionally corresponds with greater exercise participation and more positive financial behaviors. Furthermore, these positive health and financial behaviors predicted better health-wealth outcomes and ultimately higher QOL. The results of this research could be used to aid public programs that target health and personal finance related concerns.