How personality influences cognitive loss in older adults

How personality influences cognitive loss in older adults

It’s believed that memory declines with age. Termed as mild cognitive impairment, it does not affect the day-to-day routine of an individual. However, there may be other conditions wherein the onset of cognitive decline with age affects the ability to carry out daily chores. These cognitive changes lead to impaired thinking and memory, and can be broadly classified as “dementia.”

Dementia is a severe cognitive impairment in the elderly population, with the most common form being Alzheimer’s. A recent study by the Alzheimer’s Association reveals that as many as 10-20 percent of people aged 65 years or above have mild cognitive impairment. Individuals suffering from age-related mental disorders may experience conditions that remain unresolved and lead to irreversible memory loss. This is an unexplored area with no adequate intervention therapies, although a number of studies have discussed potential causes of cognitive decline and its link with aging.

Some other researches focused on investigating personality-moderated cognition loss in older adults. These studies point at a potential link between memory loss and increasing age. Researchers are trying to find out if there are differences in types of age-related diseases in adults with vibrant personalities compared to dispirited ones.

Many studies pointed at meta-analysis findings that examine the association between personality and cognitive decline in old age. According to The Journals of Gerontology, higher neuroticism was associated with poor performance in all cognitive measures and resulted in a greater decline in memory, whereas higher conscientiousness and openness showed better memory performance and resulted in lower memory loss over time. It further said that higher conscientiousness and lower extraversion were associated with better cognitive status and less decline. An individual’s personality can also be influenced by his or her lifestyle, which in turn may impact the severity of cognitive decline in the older age.

Cognitive decline can be identified in adults when they face issues such as attention deficit, inability to gather irrelevant information, word-finding difficulties and other memory-related impairments. Researchers are looking for answers that focus on recognizing the individual personality differences approach.

In a study by the Pennsylvania State University, involving a sample size of 71 candidates participating in a randomized repeated measure clinical trial, were offered post-acute services for rehabilitation, following hospitalization. The subjects, selected from a large group diagnosed with dementia and concurrent delirium, were made to go through a number of prescribed therapies and care, with a cognitive stimulation session daily. The researchers kept track of delirium, attention, orientation, memory and executive functions in the participants. Different models were used to test the five personality traits on cognitive outcomes.

The results of clinical trial showed significant moderating effects of personality traits with regard to two cognitive outcomes — agreeableness moderating the memory outcome and extraversion moderating the executive function outcome. Individuals with higher agreeableness were more likely to have improved memory outcomes, and those with lower extraversion were more likely to have improved executive function outcomes as a result of the cognition-focused intervention. Lower openness, higher agreeableness and lower conscientiousness were associated with greater engagement in the intervention.

According to a joint study by the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing Personality, “Personality traits are known to influence a wide variety of health and treatment outcomes, and their role in cognition-focused interventions for individuals with dementia and delirium is in line with these findings.” Therefore, older adults are more likely to differ in the severity of cognitive decline, based on their personality types.

You may want to undergo therapies or tests that help you find solutions to issues related to cognitive loss. Those who seek treatment will have far better odds of being able to move forward positively in their life. The Florida Mental Health Helpline is here to make sure that those seeking treatment for mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders get the help they need.

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