According to new research, teenagers with a vigorous, calm and mature personality are less likely to suffer from dementia later in life.

The researchers from Taub Institute on Alzheimer’s disease and the Aging Brain, Department of Neurology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York City sought to assess the personality traits of more than 80,000 people from a national sample of high school children in 1960. They were made to take a series of tests and questionnaires which assessed their abilities, personality traits as well as their backgrounds. They divided the cohort evenly between men and women participants.

‘The Project Talent Personality Inventory’ included about 150 questions that were designed to evaluate 10 personality traits including vigor, calm, culture sociability, maturity, social empathy, social sensitivity, impulsivity, leadership, tidiness, and self-confidence. They defined the traits ‘calmness’ as being stress-free and not neurotic, ‘vigor’ as being energetic and outgoing, and ‘maturity’ as being responsible and reliable.

Their findings suggested that adolescents who rated higher on the ‘vigor’ scale had a lower chance of being diagnosed with dementia after five decades. Calmness and maturity were found to be linked to lower risk of dementia, but only among those whose parents had higher socioeconomic status.

"This study supports other similar research [suggesting] that if we want to lower dementia risk, one strategy would be to prioritize early-life cognitive, medical, and mental health," said the lead researcher Dr. Jennifer Manly, PhD to Medscape Medical News, "We should help parents and teachers create safe, equitable, and engaging environments where kids can develop skills like being calm in the face of challenge, being physically active, and practicing mature responses."

Although there has been a lot of evidence to show that early life experiences influenced the risk of dementia later in life, this team of researchers is working towards identifying resilience factors including biological, social and individual factors that can help protect older individuals against cognitive disabilities. Dementia has been projected to affect society worse than what it is at present. If such resilience factors can be identified, it is hoped that it can help reduce the burden of dementia.

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