Neurotic pessimists get a raw deal, of course

3 minute read

Some personality traits bring a higher likelihood of getting a clinical dementia diagnosis. Wouldn’t you know it.

What’s your personality type? Click here to see your best Game of Thrones character match, or the five foods that will help you live to 105, or your personal prediction for a dementia diagnosis!

Wait, what?

Yes. An American meta-analysis published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that high neuroticism and negative affect were associated with an increased risk of dementia diagnosis, while conscientiousness, extraversion, and positive affect were protective against it.

So, George Costanza is flat out of luck, at least in terms of clinical dementia risk.

The researchers looked at eight studies, following 44,533 participants, 1703 with dementia. They confirmed earlier research that the Big Five personality traits – extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience – and subjective well-being measures – life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect – are associated with dementia diagnosis risk.  

“We wanted to leverage new technology to synthesise these studies and test the strength and consistency of these associations,” lead author Assistant Professor of Psychology Emorie Beck said.

Specifically, openness to experience, positive affect and satisfaction seemed to have a protective effect against clinical symptoms of dementia. Of these, openness was the least consistent as a predictor across different cultures. Meanwhile there was a “reliable association” between negative affect (experiencing moods like anger, anxiety, disgust, fear and guilt) and dementia. 

But the researchers did not find a link with neuropathological manifestations of dementia post mortem – things like amyloid beta peptides, tau neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and Lewy body disease among others.

Indeed, “a large body of research demonstrates a disconnect between the degree of pathology in a person’s brain and whether that neuropathology manifests clinically as cognitive impairment,” the authors wrote.

It is thought that this might be because some personality traits make people better able to cope with or work around symptoms of dementia, they noted.

Nor did they find that age, gender or formal education level made a difference to the associations found, except that the protective effect of conscientiousness increased with age.

“[T]hese results replicate and extend evidence that personality traits may assist in early identification and dementia-care planning strategies, as well as risk stratification for dementia diagnosis. Moreover, our findings provide further support for recommendations to incorporate psychological trait measures into clinical screening or diagnosis criteria,” the authors said.

So, don’t be surprised if the next diagnostic tool your clinician runs you through looks a little like this:

  1. Your cat doesn’t come running immediately when called to dinner. Do you:
  2. Venture out into the neighbourhood, sweetly calling her name and tempting her with the stench of specially formulated caviar cat mix you took a second mortgage out to buy.
  3. Assume she’s been lured away by the family at number 47 because they hate you and immediately initiate a plan for retrieval and revenge.
  4. Not care. Where’s the remote?

Ticked yes to any of the above? Let’s have a chat.

Do you have an interesting story that’s sure to capture the attention of our readers/be rejected out of hand because everything is pointless? Send it to and she’ll read it with an open mind/see that it’s in an unfamiliar font and immediately bin it.

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