Study finds if you have these personality traits, you are at higher risk for dementia

As one of the most devastating and fated illnesses of the 21st century, dementia has remained at the center of preemptive research for some time. 

The worst of its pathogenesis often follows a late diagnosis. Alongside the documented genetic substrates, a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society posits a correlation between personality traits (namely neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness) and the development of certain pre‐dementia syndromes.

“The aim of the present study was to examine the role of personality traits as predictors of incident pre-dementia, motoric cognitive risk (MCR), and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) Syndromes,” the authors wrote in the new paper. “Over a median follow-up of three years, 38 participants developed incident MCR, and 69 developed incident MCI (41 non-amnestic and 28 amnestic subtypes). Open-ness was associated with a reduced risk of developing incident MCR whereas neuroticism was associated with an increased risk of incident non-amnestic MCI. These associations remained significant even after considering the confounding effects of lifestyle or mood.”

The Effect of Personality Traits on Risk of Incident Pre-dementia Syndromes

The five-factor model, which denotes the personality traits indexed in this article’s introduction, has been associated with neurological status in previously conducted literature. The early stages of cognitive decline are defined by a collection of subtle abnormalities that may be attributed to less serious symptoms of advanced age. 

Moodiness, apathy, antisocial behaviors, and language difficulty, for instance, are all correlates of dementia that can just as easily be indicators of prolonged isolation, retirement adjustment, and decreased stimulation. 

All of this to say, any and all behavioral predators of the disease must be paired with instructive physiological hallmarks. 

The strength of the new report supplies patients and physicians alike with a larger data set to consider before diagnosis. 

The researchers studied community-residing adults aged 65 years and older who were enrolled in the Central Control of Mobility in Aging (CCMA) study. The primary objective of CCMA is to determine cognitive control of mobility.

Eligible participants were scheduled for routine in-person study visits at the research center. During these visits, the individuals received comprehensive cognitive, psychological, and mobility assessments. Neuropsychological tests were additionally administered by researchers and included a test of general cognitive function.

Neuroticism was consistently identified as a compelling determinant of pre-dementia syndromes.

From the report:

“Our findings are consistent with a recent study that examined the cross-sectional relationship between personality traits and prevalent MCR but also shows some differences that may be attributed to the difference in study designs. Stephan et al showed that in addition to openness as in our study, neuroticism, extraversion, and consciousness were associated with MCR at the cross-section. The additional personality traits associated with MCR at cross-section may be a feature of later pre-dementia stages.”

The study was not without its limitations. For one thing, the personality assessments relied on self-reporting. Moreover, because the analysis was conducted on older populations, it’s hard to determine if the changes were due to the development of pre-dementia syndromes or if the progressive stage of the diseases was affecting the scores of the participants.   

In any case, preliminary research sets out to diversify the academic discussion surrounding an area of study. Given that the findings uncovered in the new report are substantiated by preceding literature, further analysis is more than warranted. 

“Eat a balanced diet. We can exercise, and we can get a lot more sleep,” Wardlow said. “So not just doing one thing, but trying to do multiple things,” The Alzheimer’s Association commented on the back of the new report. 

 CW Headley is a reporter for the Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com