Conscientious and outgoing personality types are at lower risk of dementia, study finds
People who are conscientious, outgoing and have a positive outlook are less likely to develop dementia, according to a new analysis.
Experts have found that certain personality traits appear to be linked to a lower risk of the disease, which affects more than 6 million Americans and almost a million people in Britain.
Researchers analyzed data from eight studies involving more than 44,000 people aged 49 to 81.
They were followed for up to 21 years, with 1,703 developing dementia.
People who are conscientious and have a positive outlook are less likely to develop dementia (stock image)
The researchers looked at measures of the ‘big five’ personality traits: conscientiousness, extraversion, openness to experience, neuroticism and agreeableness.
They also focused on well-being, such as how satisfied people reported they were with their lives and whether they had a positive or negative outlook.
Analysis found that people who were more conscientious, for example, did things carefully and correctly, who were outgoing or had a positive attitude, were less likely to be diagnosed with dementia.
Some studies also found that participants who scored high on openness to new experiences, agreeableness, and life satisfaction seemed to have some form of protection against the disease.
Meanwhile, those who scored high on neuroticism and who had more negative “affect” – for example, greater feelings of anger, fear, guilt or anxiety – were at greater risk of being diagnosed with dementia.
However, to the scientists’ surprise, no link was found between these personality traits and actual changes in people’s brains after they died.
Emorie Beck, a researcher at the University of California, Davis, and first author of the study, said: ‘This was the most surprising finding for us.
“If personality is predictive of performance on cognitive tests, but not pathology, what might be happening?”
Personality is typically thought to be linked to dementia risk through behavior, the team suggested.
For example, people who score high on conscientiousness are more likely to eat well and take care of their health, which leads to better health in the long run.
Another explanation could be that some personality traits may make people more resilient to the damage caused by diseases such as Alzheimer’s, they said.
People with higher levels of certain traits can find ways, whether they are aware of it or not, to cope with and work around their limitations.
The team recommended including measures of psychological traits in the clinical screening or criteria followed for a diagnosis of dementia.
The findings were published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal