To reach their findings, researchers analyzed three major personality traits: conscientiousness, neuroticism, and extraversion.
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A big part of how people move through the world is based on personality, and according to new research, our character traits can actually impact our health, too. In a recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, scientists investigated three of the "Big Five" personality traits—conscientiousness, neuroticism, and extraversion (agreeable and openness are the other two)—to see how our personalities can impact our brain health and cognition as we age. Based on their findings, those who are conscientiousness (for example, people who are more organized and self-disciplined) decrease their chances of experiencing dementia as they age.

"Personality traits reflect relatively enduring patterns of thinking and behaving, which may cumulatively affect engagement in healthy and unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns across the lifespan," says Tomiko Yoneda, PhD, a lead author from the University of Victoria, in a media release. "The accumulation of lifelong experiences may then contribute to susceptibility of particular diseases or disorders, such as mild cognitive impairment, or contribute to individual differences in the ability to withstand age-related neurological changes."

To conduct their research, the study authors brought on 1,954 volunteers in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, which tracked the health of older Chicago residents, none of whom experienced dementia when starting the study in 1997. Throughout the course of the study to date, each participant filled out personality tests and underwent cognitive exams each year. The researchers found that the people who had high scores in conscientiousness and low ones in neuroticism were least likely to experience cognitive decline during the study. Specifically, the 80-year-old participants with conscientious personalities lived two years longer without signs of dementia in comparison to those with lower scores in that personality field.

"Scoring approximately 6 more points on a conscientiousness scale ranging 0 to 48 was associated with a 22 percent decreased risk of transitioning from normal cognitive functioning to mild cognitive impairment," adds Yoneda. "Additionally, scoring approximately seven more points on a neuroticism scale of 0 to 48 was associated with a 12 percent increased risk of transition."

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