Your personality might be linked to the risk of developing dementia, a study reveals
A new study from the American Psychological Association suggests that certain personality traits have an effect on the cognitive decline of older people. The results were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
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The researchers, led by Dr. Tomiko Yoneda from the University of Victoria, collected data from nearly 2,000 individuals for almost two decades to understand the link between personality traits and the risk of developing dementia.
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The 1,954 participants averaged at age 80 and were recruited from senior housing facilities, church groups, and other organizations in the Greater Chicago Area. None of them had a previous dementia diagnosis before starting the study.
The team led by Yoneda defined used the Big Five Personality Traits as a model. These are Neuroticism, Extroversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness.
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The participants were assessed through the NEO Five-Factor Inventory, defining their personality traits. They also received annual exams focused on neurophysiological and biological variables, examining the presence and gravity of cognitive impairment.
Variants such as gender, education, and history of previous illnesses such as heart diseases, strokes, depression, and vascular disease were also taken into consideration. Curiously enough, the vast majority of participants in the study were women, with a good deal of them being white and middle to the upper class.
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The results were pretty clear: People who presented a larger level of conscientiousness, that is, careful and diligent, had a decreased risk of suffering cognitive decline.
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Meanwhile, those who showed higher levels of neuroticism were more likely to develop dementia.
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Extroversion had a more complex relationship with dementia. At first, it seemed that extroverted people received no special protection from cognitive decline.
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However, once mild symptoms started to appear, they were more likely to recover. This suggests that extroverted individuals were more likely to seek help at an early stage.
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Sadly, once dementia fully sets in, these advantages no longer were relevant.
Researchers were unable to measure how two other personality traits, openness, and agreeableness, played a role in cognitive decline. Nonetheless, both tend to be linked to improving health.
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Overall, personality traits seem that can tip the scale either way in the early stages of cognitive decline.
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However, this can only do so much. Once dementia sets in, personality erodes and traits no longer play a factor in avoiding death.
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Still, the big takeaway from the study might be that living a stressful existence makes us more harm than we knew in the long run.
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Meanwhile, being more calm and reflective can lead to a longer, healthier life.
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