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Dementia-Habits linked to cognitive decline

A recent research study suggests that personality traits are associated with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), dementia, and mortality risk. The study done on a total of 1954 people, comprising 74% women participants, is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology – “Personality Processes and Individual Differences”.

The research led by Tomiko Yoneda, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of Victoria, focused on three personality traits- conscientiousness, neuroticism and extraversion and the role they play in cognitive functioning later in life.

Dementia is a syndrome in which the cognitive functioning of an individual deteriorates. As per global health data, currently more than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.

This disease which mainly affects older people, is currently the seventh leading cause of death among all diseases and is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people. Though it commonly occurs in older people but is not an age related issue.

Few common signs of dementia are forgetfulness, lack of concentration, confusion even while at home with known people, difficulty in communication, unable to do personal chores, behaviour change, difficulty in walking, and difficulty in recognising friends and family.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia.

As per the research paper, participants without a formal diagnosis of dementia were recruited from retirement communities, church groups, and subsidized senior housing facilities. Data collection began in 1997, with ongoing recruitment in North Eastern Illinois.

The NEO Five Factor Inventory was used to assess conscientiousness, neuroticism, and extraversion. Participants completed up to 23 annual assessments. The NEO Five Factor Inventory or the NEO-FFI gives a measurement of the five big domains of personality (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness).

Conscientiousness was assessed with 12 items, such as “I am a productive person who always gets the job done.”

Neuroticism was assessed with 12 items, such as “I often feel tense and jittery.”

Extraversion was assessed with six items, such as “I like to have a lot of people around me.”

“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," Yoneda adds.

The study found that people who were high in conscientiousness lived two years longer without any mild cognitive impairment in comparison to those individuals who were low in conscientiousness.

Along with shedding light on conscientiousness, the study also revealed that people who score high in extraversion maintained healthy cognition for atleast a year longer in comparison to others.

In contrast, high neuroticism was associated with at least one less year of healthy cognitive functioning, highlighting the harms associated with the long-term experience of perceived stress and emotional instability, Yoneda has said in her statement.





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