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Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
April 4, 2024 ·  5 min read

These Personality Traits May Be Able to Predict Dementia, Study Finds

Dementia, a progressive and debilitating brain disorder, affects millions of people worldwide. While age and genetics are known risk factors, a new study funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) suggests that certain personality traits may also play a role in predicting dementia. Published in the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, the study explores the correlation between personality traits and the risk of developing dementia. Understanding these associations could help researchers and healthcare professionals better identify individuals at risk and potentially develop interventions to prevent or delay the onset of the disease.

Personality Traits that Predict Dementia: The Study

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A new study titled “Can Personality Traits Predict Dementia?” looks at various personality traits and their correlation with whether or not the person with them is more or less likely to develop dementia. The study, conducted by researchers from Northwestern University and the University of California, Davis, involved analyzing data from 44,531 participants who were part of eight longitudinal studies conducted across three continents and five countries. The researchers focused on personality traits such as conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, positive affect, and negative affect. The data was combined and harmonized to examine whether personality traits and subjective reports of well-being influenced the neuropsychological and neuropathological characteristics of dementia. (1)

Read More: Two Subtle Signs of Dementia You Should Look Out for at Home

The findings revealed that certain personality traits were associated with the risk of developing dementia

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Neuroticism, low conscientiousness, and negative affect were linked to an increased risk of dementia, while conscientiousness, extraversion, and positive affect were associated with a lower risk. Interestingly, no consistent associations were found between personality traits and dementia-related brain changes. It is important to note that the samples used in the study were predominantly from the United States, which presents a limitation in terms of generalizability across diverse populations.

Before continuing to talk about the study, let’s quickly define what the personality traits mentioned in the study actually mean:

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  • Conscientiousness: A trait associated with the tendency to be responsible, organized, hard-working, goal-directed, and to adhere to norms and rules. These people tend to exhibit self-control, industriousness, responsibility, and reliability. (2)
  • Extraversion: A trait associated with a general tendency to experience positive emotions, as well as traits such as sociability, assertiveness, high activity level, positive emotions, and impulsivity. (3)
  • Neuroticism: the trait disposition to experience negative affects, including anger, anxiety, self‐consciousness, irritability, emotional instability, and depression. Persons with elevated levels of neuroticism respond poorly to environmental stress, interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and can experience minor frustrations as hopelessly overwhelming. (4)
  • Positive Affect: PA is characterized by joy and high levels of energy, concentration, enthusiasm, and alertness. (5)
  • Negative Affect: NA is characterized by distress, anger, contempt, and nervousness or fear.

Implications of the Study

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The results of this study provide valuable insights into the potential predictive power of personality traits in relation to dementia. Identifying these risk factors earlier could assist in the development of targeted interventions and personalized strategies to mitigate the risk of developing dementia. The findings also highlight the need for further research to explore these associations using biomarkers of dementia and in more diverse and inclusive populations.

What This Means for You

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If you possess certain personality traits, it is important to be aware of their potential implications in relation to dementia. Individuals who exhibit neuroticism, low conscientiousness, or negative affect may be at an increased risk of developing dementia. On the other hand, those high in conscientiousness, extraversion, or positive affect may have a reduced risk. Understanding these associations can act as a trigger for individuals to take proactive steps in monitoring their cognitive health and adopting lifestyle choices that may help reduce the risk of dementia.

Read More: Forty Percent of Dementia Cases Could Possibly be Prevented or Delayed by Targeting 12 Risk Factors Throughout Life

Understanding Dementia

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Dementia is a broad term used to describe a range of symptoms that result from progressive brain damage. It affects memory, thinking, behavior, and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for around 60-70% of cases. Other types include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. Dementia is a significant public health issue, not only for individuals and families affected but also for healthcare systems and society as a whole. (6)

Ways to Prevent Dementia

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  1. Maintain a healthy diet: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can support brain health.
  2. Engage in regular physical exercise: Regular exercise, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming, can improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of dementia.
  3. Stay mentally and socially active: Engage in activities that challenge the brain, such as reading, puzzles, learning new skills, and staying socially connected.
  4. Manage cardiovascular risk factors: Control hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and maintain a healthy weight to reduce the risk of vascular-related dementias.
  5. Get quality sleep: Prioritize a good night’s sleep as it plays a crucial role in brain health and cognitive function.
  6. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption: Smoking and heavy alcohol intake have been linked to an increased risk of dementia. Quitting smoking and drinking in moderation can help lower the risk.
  7. Manage stress: Chronic stress may contribute to cognitive decline. Practice stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies.

The Bottom Line

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The recent study supported by the NIA indicates that certain personality traits can predict dementia. Neuroticism, low conscientiousness, and negative affect are associated with an increased risk, whereas conscientiousness, extraversion, and positive affect show a reduced risk. The findings signify the importance of considering personality traits as potential risk factors for dementia and highlight the need for further research to explore these associations. While we cannot change our personalities, we can adopt healthy lifestyle choices that may help reduce the risk of dementia. By following recommendations such as maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, staying mentally and socially active, managing cardiovascular risk factors, prioritizing sleep, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and managing stress, we can take proactive steps towards protecting our cognitive health and enhancing our overall well-being.

Read More: 6 Conditions That Seem Like Dementia — But Actually Aren’t


  1. Can personality traits predict dementia?NIH. March 28, 2024
  2. Conscientiousness.” Psychology Today.
  3. Extraversion.” Science Direct
  4. Neuroticism is a fundamental domain of personality with enormous public health implications.” NCBI. Thomas A. Widiger and Joshua R. Oltmanns. May 2017.
  5. Associations Between Positive and Negative Affect and the Way People Perceive Their Health Goals.” NCBI. Ekaterina Plys and Olivier Desrichard. March 2020.
  6. What Is Dementia?ALZ.