Conscientiousness May Help Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease

Results of a recent study about the link between conscientiousness and Alzheimer’s disease may provide yet another strategy for delaying the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, according to a study published in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Conscientiousness, which generally refers to a person’s ability to be goal-directed and control impulses, has been associated with various mental and physical disorders. In the published study, which ran from 1994 to 2006 and studied nearly 1,000 older individuals, participants were evaluated for medical history, neurologic examinations and cognitive testing.

The "conscientiousness score" was determined with a 12-items evaluation where participants rated their agreement with a number of statements, such as: “I am a productive person who always gets the job done." Those who had conscientiousness scores in the top 10% had an 89% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those whose scores ranked in the bottom 10% of the conscientiousness score.

The study’s author’s posit that conscientious people are more likely to be succesful in education and work, both of which have been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, conscientiousness has been linked to resilience and to coping actively with difficulties. “These factors might lessen the adverse consequences of negative life events and chronic psychological distress, which have been associated with risk of dementia in old age,” the researchers note.

The study concludes that the "level of conscientiousness is associated with incidence of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease but not with the pathologic hallmarks of these conditions."


Source: Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007;64(10):1204-1212.

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