Dark side of health-predicting health behaviors and diseases with the Dark Triad traits

  • Marta Malesza
  • Magdalena Claudia Kaczmarek
Original Article



Numerous studies have documented the effects of personality on both health-related behaviors and diseases. However, which Dark Triad traits are most relevant to health, and the precise magnitude of their effects, is inconsistent across studies. The present study used a large Internet sample to replicate and extend the relations between the Dark Triad and numerous health-related behaviors and diseases.

Subjects and methods

The sample was composed of 3649 adults. Participants completed an inventory regarding general health behaviors as well as different measures of specified health diseases. The current study also employed the Sociosexual Orientation Inventory and three measures of the Dark Triad traits.


High psychopathy predicted almost all health behaviors and diseases, indicating that individuals who are less responsible and less self-controlled tend to report poorer health. Second, the present study revealed a weaker correlation between Machiavellianism and health indicators than for psychopathy. Finally, the results also support our assumption that narcissism is not only only a positive, but also a negative predictor of health indicators and diseases.


Despite conceptual similarities among psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism, the three measures examined in this study are non-redundant and demonstrate significant incremental prediction of health indicators beyond gender, age and impulsivity.


Dark Triad Health behaviors Diseases Impulsivity 


Authors’ contributions

M.M. and M.C.K.: study conception and design; acquisition of data; analysis and interpretation of data. M.M.: writing the final manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Author Marta Malesza declares that she has no conflict of interest. Author Magdalena Claudia Kaczmarek declares that she has no conflict of interest.


  1. Beaver KM, Nedelec JL, da Silva Costa C, Poersch AP, Stelmach MC, Freddi MC, Gajos JM, Boccio G (2014) The association between psychopathic personality traits and health-related outcomes. J Crim Just 42:399–407. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Christie R, Geis FL (1970) Studies in Machiavellianism. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Daugherty JR, Brase GL (2010) Taking time to be healthy: predicting health behaviors with delay discounting and time perspective. Pers Individ Differ 48(2):202–207. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Del Guidice M (2014) An evolutionary life history framework for psychopathology. Psychol Inq 25:261–300. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Emmons RA (1987) Narcissism: theory and measurement. J Pers Soc Psychol 52:11–17CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Fiala B, Kopp M, Gunther V (1997) Why do young women use sunbeds? A comparative psychological study. Br J Dermatol 137:950–954. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Figueredo AJ, Vásquez G, Brumbach BH, Schneider SMR, Sefcek JA, Tal IR, Hill D, Wenner CJ, Jacobs WJ (2006) Consilience and life history theory: from genes to brain to reproductive strategy. Dev Rev 26:243–275. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ford J, Spallek M, Dobson A (2008) Self-rated health and a healthy lifestyle are the most important predictors of survival in elderly women. Age Ageing 37:194–200. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Friedman HS, Kern ML (2014) Personality, well-being and health. Annu Rev Psychol 65:719–742. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Furnham A, Richards SC, Paulhus DL (2013) The Dark Triad of personality: a 10 year review. Soc Personal Psychol Compass 7:199–216. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Glenn AL, Sellbom M (2015) Theoretical and empirical concerns regarding the Dark Triad as a construct. J Personal Disord 29(3):360–377. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hare RD, Neumann CS (2008) Psychopathy as a clinical and empirical construct. Annu Rev Clin Psychol 4:217–241. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Henning H, Six B (2008) Machiavellismus. In: Glöckner-Rist A (ed) Zusammenstellung sozialwissenschaftlicher Items und Skalen. ZIS Version 12.00. GESIS, Bonn, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  14. Hudek-Knežević J, Kardum I, Mehić N (2016) Dark Triad traits and health outcomes: an exploratory study. Psych Topics 25(1):129–156. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Idler EL, Benyamini Y (1997) Self-rated health and mortality: a review of twenty-seven community studies. J Health Soc Behav 38:21–37CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Jakobwitz S, Egan V (2006) The Dark Triad and normal personality. Pers Individ Differ 40:331–339. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jonason PK, Baughman HM, Carter GL, Parker P (2015) Dorian gray without his portrait: psychological, social, and physical health costs associated with the Dark Triad. Pers Individ Differ 78:5–13. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jonason PK, Koenig B, Tost J (2010) Living a fast life: the Dark Triad and life history theory. Hum Nat 21:428–442. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jones DN, Paulhus DL (2011) The role of impulsivity in the Dark Triad of personality. Pers Individ Differ 51:670–682. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kelsey RM, Ornduff SR, Reiff S, Arthur CM (2002) Psychophysiological correlates of narcissistic traits in women during active coping. Psychophysiology 39:322–332. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Leclerc J, Rahn M, Linden W (2006) Does personality predict blood pressure over 10-year period? Pers Individ Differ 40:1313–1321. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lee K, Ashton MC (2005) Psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism in the five-factor model and the HEXACO model of personality structure. Pers Individ Differ 38(7):1571–1582. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Macintyre S, Hunt K, Sweeting H (1996) Gender differences in health: are things really as simple as they seem? Soc Sci Med 42:617–627CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Malesza M (2017) Testing the construct validity of the discounting inventory–psychometric properties of a polish and German samples. Pol Psychol Bull 48(1):118–128. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Malesza M, Kaczmarek MC (2018) The convergent validity between self-and peer-ratings of the Dark Triad personality. Curr Psychol 1–8.
  26. Malesza M, Kalinowski K (2019) Curr Psychol 1-9.
  27. Malesza M, Maczuga M (2017) Reliability of the discounting inventory: an extension into substance-use population. Pol Psychol Bull 48(2):293–300. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Malesza M, Ostaszewski P (2016) Dark side of impulsivity—associations between the Dark Triad, self-report and behavioral measures of impulsivity. Pers Individ Differ 88:197–201. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Malesza M, Ostaszewski P (2017) Assessing individual differences in discounting: construction and initial validation of the discounting inventory. Curr Psychol 1–13.
  30. Malesza M, Ostaszewski P, Büchner S, Kaczmarek MC (2019) The adaptation of the short Dark Triad personality measure–psychometric properties of a German sample. Curr Psychol 38(3):855–864. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Maniaci MR, Rogge RD (2014) Caring about carelessness: participant inattention and its effects on research. J Res Pers 48:61–83. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nedelec JL, Beaver KM (2014) The relationship between self-control in adolescence and social consequences in adulthood: assessing the influence of genetic confounds. J Crim Just 42:288–298. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Noser AE, Zeigler-Hill V, Besser A (2014) Stress and affective experiences: the importance of dark personality features. J Res Pers 53:158–164. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Paulhus DL, Williams KM (2002) The Dark Triad of personality: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. J Res Pers 36:556–563. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rose P (2002) The happy and unhappy faces of narcissism. Pers Individ Differ 33:379–391. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Shumaker SA, Hill DR (1991) Gender differences in social support and physical health. Health Psychol 10:102–111CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Simpson JA, Gangestad SW (1991) Individual differences in sociosexuality: evidence for convergent and discriminant validity. J Pers Soc Psychol 60(6):870CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Verbrugge LM (1989) The twain meet: empirical explanations of sex differences in health and mortality. J Health Soc Behav 30:282–304CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. von Collani, G. (2008) Modifizierte deutsche Versionen des Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI-d). In A. Glöckner-Rist (Ed.), Zusammenstellung sozialwissenschaftlicher Items und Skalen. ZIS Version 12.00. Bonn, Germany: GESISGoogle Scholar
  40. Williams KM, Nathanson C, Paulhus DL (2003) Structure and validity of the self-report psychopathy scale-III in normal populations. Toronto, Canada: Presentation at the 111th annual convention of the American Psychological AssociationGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marta Malesza
    • 1
  • Magdalena Claudia Kaczmarek
    • 2
  1. 1.WarsawPoland
  2. 2.Department of Psychosocial Medicine and PsychotherapyUniversity Hospital JenaJenaGermany

Personalised recommendations