Personality traits such as neuroticism could increase risk of Alzheimer's in women, study suggests

Published 1 October 2014

Middle aged women with certain personality traits such as introversion and neuroticism may be at increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, according to research published in Neurology today (1 October)

Researchers at the University of Gothenberg followed 800 women for 38 years. The women, who had an average age of 46 at the study's start, were given personality tests to measure their levels of neuroticism and extraversion and asked to report feelings of stress across their lifetime. The study found that those with higher levels of neuroticism were at increased risk of developing Alzheimer's but that the link between neuroticism and the condition depended on high levels of long term stress.

Previous research has suggested that stress is a risk factor for dementia. Alzheimer's Society is currently funding research at the University of Southampton to explore how personality, stress and different stress coping strategies can affect the likelihood of development of dementia.

Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at Alzheimer's Society said:

'We all have moments when we feel stressed or worried, but stressed women reading this shouldn't take this research to mean they're necessarily at higher risk of dementia. This research doesn't show that neuroticism in women alone could increase risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, but what it does suggest is that personality traits like neuroticism are linked to the experience of long term stress.

'This study adds to the mounting evidence that long term stress contributes to the development of dementia but we need more research to untangle whether personality also plays a role. While we can't control all the sources of everyday stress, we can develop coping strategies to deal with them and we're funding research to help explore how this could help with reducing risk of dementia.'

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