This Change In Personality Indicates Dementia

Older people given personality tests were followed for many years to see who developed dementia.

types of depression

Older people given personality tests were followed for many years to see who developed dementia.

Increases in the personality trait of neuroticism are a sign that someone will go on to develop dementia, research finds.

Neuroticism is a personality trait that is strongly linked to anxiety, sadness, irritability and self-consciousness.

People higher in neuroticism find it harder to deal with stress and tend to see threats everywhere.

The conclusions come from analysis of data from almost two thousand people in the US and the Netherlands.

Older people given personality tests were followed for many years to see who developed dementia.

The study’s authors explain:

“These findings provide reliable evidence of a consistent pattern of neuroticism increases preceding dementia diagnosis, and, further, suggest that change in neuroticism may occur early in the disease process.

Additionally, these results indicate that individuals who remain undiagnosed have markedly different trajectories of neuroticism compared to individuals not diagnosed with incident dementia or MCI [mild cognitive impairment].”

Along with increasing neuroticism, the researchers also found that people who went on to be diagnosed with dementia also saw decreases in extraversion.

They write:

“Assessments of extraversion, conscientiousness, openness and agreeableness were also available…

Our analyses revealed significant decreases in extraversion only, and solely for individuals with MCI [mild cognitive impairment].

These results may indicate that individuals with MCI might feel more cognitively challenged in the presence of others, possibly leading to avoidance of social activity.”

The study was published in the The Journals of Gerontology (Yoneda et al., 2018).


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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.