These personality traits may predict cognitive decline later in life – The Hill

Story at a glance

  • For the study, researchers analyzed data from 1,954 participants in the Rush Memory and Aging Project.

  • Participants agreed to annual assessments of their cognitive abilities following their initial evaluation.

  • The team focused on the role of conscientiousness, neuroticism, and extraversion played on cognitive function later in life.

People who are prone to mood swings and low emotional stability are more likely to experience cognitive decline later in life, a new study suggests.

“Personality traits reflect relatively enduring patterns of thinking and behaving, which may cumulatively affect engagement in healthy and unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns across the lifespan,” said the study’s lead author Tomiko Yoneda.

“The accumulation of lifelong experiences may then contribute to susceptibility of particular diseases or disorders, such as mild cognitive impairment, or contribute to individual differences in the ability to withstand age-related neurological changes.”

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 1,954 participants in the Rush Memory and Aging Project. Participants without a formal diagnosis of dementia from retirement communities, church groups and subsidized senior housing facilities beginning in 1997 to present.

Participants agreed to annual assessments of their cognitive abilities following their initial evaluation.

The team focused on the role conscientiousness, neuroticism, and extraversion played on cognitive function later in life. Participants with high conscientiousness scores were described as responsible and hardworking, while people who scored high for neuroticism tended to have mood swings as well as anxiety and depression, according to Yoneda. Meanwhile, extroverts were more talkative and assertive.


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Researchers found that participants who had high conscientiousness scores, or low neuroticism tallies were less likely to see mild cognitive impairment over the study period.

“Scoring approximately six more points on a conscientiousness scale ranging 0 to 48 was associated with a 22% decreased risk of transitioning from normal cognitive functioning to mild cognitive impairment,” said Yoneda. “Additionally, scoring approximately seven more points on a neuroticism scale of 0 to 48 was associated with a 12% increased risk of transition.”

Extraverted participants, researchers noted, typically maintained normal cognitive function longer than others in the study.

The research did not discover any link between any of the measured personality traits and overall life expectancy.

Yoneda added there were limitations to the study, including a predominantly white participant pool alongside high degree of educational attainment.


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Published on Apr. 11, 2022

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