Your personality may influence your brain as it ages.
A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that certain “types” of people may have less mild cognitive impairment as they age, based on certain aspects of their personality.
“Personality traits reflect an individual’s persistent patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving,” says Tomiko Yoneda, the main author of the study. And those patterns of thought and feeling can influence our actions; whether we choose a healthy lifestyle or not and whether we believe we can impart positive change in our own lives, or not.
The study of 1,954 older adults, was drawn from the Rush Memory and Aging Project, which began collecting data in 1997. For this project, the participants were analyzed for their personality type along with any clinical diagnosis of cognitive impairment and followed up on yearly for up to 23 years.
- Those who were high on the “conscientious” scale, more organized, self-disciplined and productive were less likely to develop mild cognitive impairments such as minor problems with memory and mental skills.
- People who were high in “neuroticism,” anxious, moody, and vulnerable to stress, had an increased risk of developing minor cognitive impairment.
While personality is not everything when it comes to cognitive health, the way your personality influences your long-term, overall health may certainly play a role.
A person who is more “conscientious” may be more inclined to make healthy diet, exercise and lifestyle choices which leads to a healthier aging process. Many who are high on the “neuroticism” scale may be prone to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking, smoking, or poor eating habits that sabotage their long-term health.
Extroversion appeared to play a role too. Those who are considered “extroverts” may explore new life experiences more often or be more socially active, both mental and social stimulation are associated with healthier brain aging.
Personality is not set in stone, though. There may be certain aspects of it that will never change, but becoming aware of how your habitual thoughts and actions drive your lifestyle choices can lead to small positive shifts over time.