A new study entitled “Midlife personality and risk of Alzheimer disease and distress” published in the journal Neurology suggests that an increased risk to develop Alzheimer disease dementia associated with midlife neuroticism.
Neuroticism is a long-term condition characterized by expression of symptoms of guilt, envy, anger and anxiety in a somewhat constant and severe manner.
In this study, the authors wanted to understand if there was an association between midlife neuroticism and the development of late-life dementia. For this, they analyzed 800 women aged between 38 to 54 years old beginning in 1968 and followed them for 38 years.
Women were examined and scored according to their results in neuroticism tests. The authors found that women with the highest scores in the beginning of the study had double the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, when compared to lower scores. Importantly, when the authors accounted for the stress women endured throughout their lives, they found the association was impaired. Accordingly, extroverted women exhibited less stress, however, the authors found no impact on Alzheimer’s disease dementia.
Alzheimer’s is a multifactorial disease with many risk factors associated with it, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. Now, the team from the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, University of Gothenburg, Sweden and collaborators suggest changes in behavior induced by personality can also be a risk factor.
While the results do not support a direct link between neuroticism and Alzheimer’s disease, it addresses how stress and its consequent driven behaviors may induce behavioral changes that promote risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. The study was performed only with women, but the consequences are expected to be the same in men.
Thus, “If we can identify things that are addressable in midlife, then we may be able to subsequently reduce the risk of bad outcomes in later life,” commented Dr. Galvin, a professor of neurology, psychiatry, and population health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.