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Study shows certain personality traits may be linked to pre-dementia risk

A study published earlier this month shows that certain personality traits may affect the risk of pre-dementia.

In findings published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers analyzed five personality traits — neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness — and their associations with  motoric cognitive risk (MCR) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) syndromes, according to a Wiley press release.

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"Personality traits are considered predictors of behaviors like depression and indicators of response to stress and anxiety," the authors wrote. "A previous study found that depression diagnosis was associated with higher neuroticism and lower extraversion in older adults, and that the effect of openness was mediated by level of education.

“Adjusting for depressive symptoms did not affect the association between neuroticism and non‐amnestic MCI, but it attenuated the effect of openness on MCR, indicating that depressive symptoms may drive the effect of openness on reducing risk of MCR,” they continued.

In the current study, 524 adults age 65 years and older were followed for an average of three years. Among them, 38 participants developed MCR and 69 developed MCI, some of which also had memory loss or amnestic MCI.

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A 6% reduced risk of developing MCR was associated with openness, while a 6% increased risk of non-amnestic MCI was associated with neuroticism. Memory remains undamaged in non-amnestic MCI, but one or more other cognitive abilities — such as language, visual-spatial skills, or executive functioning — are damaged.

Overall MCI or amnestic MCI were not found to be linked to any of the personality traits.

“While more studies are needed, our results provide evidence that personality traits play an independent role in the risk for or protection against specific pre-dementia syndromes,” said lead author Emmeline Ayers, MPH, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in a press release. “From a clinical perspective, these findings emphasize the importance of accounting for aspects of personality when assessing for dementia risk.”