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Your Personality As A Teen Could Hint If You’ll Develop Dementia In The Future

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Your teenage years might have been your defining years, after all, as researchers have found a link between high school personalities and dementia risk.

In a study published on JAMA Psychiatry, researchers note that seniors are less likely to develop dementia if they were calm, mature and energetic in high school.

According to Kelly Peters, principal researcher at the American Institutes for Research in Washington, DC and co-author of the paper, people who were “calm and mature” in teenhood had an approximate 10 percent reduction in adult dementia risk, and those who were full of “vigor” had a seven percent reduction.

The team studied personality tests taken by over 82,000 students spanning 1,200 US high schools in the 1960s. The students were evaluated based on 10 attributes: outgoingness, empathy and sensitivity to the feelings of others, impulsivity, leadership, vigor, calm, tidiness, culture, self-confidence and maturity.

The participants were almost 70 years old between 2011 and 2013, and by then, over 2,500 of them had developed dementia. Those who were less likely to have the condition were calm, mature and vigorous in teenhood.

Calm was defined as the freedom from stressful emotions, maturity took into account a person’s responsibility and reliability, while vigor was described to be of an energetic nature.

Peters explains that while personalities might change when individuals are on the cusp of developing dementia, there is scant evidence on whether personality traits could shape risk of adult dementia.

The correlation could spur policy thinkers into working on social support systems that better “help kids build up protective qualities,” Peters adds.

However, this test has its limitations. Peters says the team only focused on attributes that “were protective.” Furthermore, the financial circumstances of the students’ families seemed to have impacted their dementia risk. Teenagers who were brought up in poorer households were comparatively less protected from dementia even if they ranked high on calmness, maturity and vigor.

Additionally, Dr Anton Porsteinsson from the University of Rochester Medical Center—who did not participate in the study—points out that the average age of a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s is “around the early 80s,” so the results of the study would be more accurate if it continues for another decade or so.

Dr Porteinsson, who’s the director of the university’s Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Research and Education Program, questions if the characteristics are directly related to the disease or if they drive people to “make better health choices.”

He also warns against distinguishing “good” and “bad” personality traits based on these findings. While impulsiveness and neuroticism don’t seem beneficial in reducing dementia risk, for instance, they might lead to the development of other valuable skill sets.

“We don’t necessarily want all kids to be calm and composed at all times,” he cautions. Neither should they “fit into the same mold.” Until the results are definitive, he asks for people to be “very careful” before nurturing their children to take on the same few traits.

[via Medical Xpress, cover image via Shutterstock]

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