Personality traits usually indicate chronic patterns of thinking and behavior, which can have long-term effects on good and bad behaviors and involvement in thought processes.
New research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows how the three “Big Five” personality traits (conscience, nervousness, and extroversion) affect cognitive function in later life.
“Lifetime experience accumulation can then contribute to susceptibility to specific diseases or disorders, such as mild cognitive impairment, or individual differences in ability to tolerate age-related neurological changes,” said lead author Tomiko Yoneda.
The results of the study suggest that those who are organized and have a high level of self-discipline are less likely to have mild cognitive impairments with age, whereas mood or mentally unstable people are more likely to experience cognitive decline later in life.
People with high conscience scores are more responsible, organized, hardworking and goal-oriented. Nervous people have less emotional stability and are more prone to mood swings, anxiety, sadness, self-doubt and other negative emotions. Extraverters derive their energy from being around other people and taking it to other people and the outside world. According to Yoneda, they are passionate, outgoing, talkative and outspoken.
To better understand the relationship between personality traits and cognitive impairment in later life, researchers analyzed data from 1,954 participants in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a longitudinal study of older adults living in the greater Chicago metropolitan area and northeast Illinois. Without a formal diagnosis of dementia, participants were recruited from retiring communities, church groups, and subsidized senior housing facilities that began in 1997 and continue to this day. Participants received a personality assessment and agreed to an annual assessment of their cognitive abilities. The study included participants who received at least two annual cognitive assessments or an assessment prior to death.
Participants who scored high on conscience or low on nervousness were significantly less likely to progress from normal knowledge to mild cognitive impairment during the study.
“A score of about six points on a discretionary scale from 0 to 48 was associated with a 22% reduction in the risk of transitioning from normal cognitive functioning to mild cognitive impairment,” Yoneda added. “In addition, scoring approximately seven more points on the nervous system scale from 0 to 48 was associated with a 12% risk of change.”
Researchers did not find any correlation between extroversion and the final development of mild cognitive impairment, but they found that participants who scored higher in extroversion – as well as those who were more conscientious or less nervous – were more likely to maintain normal cognitive functioning than others.
For example, participants over the age of 80 who were more conscientious were expected to live about two more years without cognitive impairments than those who were less conscientious. Outgoing participants were assumed to maintain healthy knowledge for more than a year. In contrast, high nervousness was associated with less than one year of healthy cognitive functioning, highlighting the disadvantages associated with perceived stress and long-term experience of emotional instability, according to Yoneda.
Additionally, those with less nervousness and more extroversion were more likely to recover from normal cognitive activity after a previous diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, suggesting that these traits may be protective even after a person begins to progress in dementia. According to Yoneda, in the case of extroversion, this search may be an indication of the benefits of social interaction to improve cognitive outcomes.
There was no relationship between personality traits and total lifespan.
Yoneda noted that participants had limited results, primarily due to white (87%) and female (74%) makeup. Participants were also highly educated, with an average of about 15 years of education. Adult adults need more research on more diverse specimens and should include the other two characteristics of the big five personalities (consent and openness) to be more generalizable and provide a broader idea of the cognitive process and the effect of personality traits on mortality. Life, he said.
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