Extroverted teenagers may be less likely to develop dementia in old age than shy children, a study has suggested.  

Researchers recorded the character traits of 80,000 high school students in the 1960s and cross examined them with their health outcomes over 50 years later. 

Teens who were outgoing and physically active were found to be 7 per cent less likely of developing the memory-robbing disorder by the time they were 70.

The research team from the University of Rochester Medical Center, New York, believe high-energy children are more likely to keep physical activity up in later life.

Extroverted teenagers may be less likely to develop dementia in old age than shy children, a study has suggested (file photo)

Extroverted teenagers may be less likely to develop dementia in old age than shy children, a study has suggested (file photo)

Outgoing youngsters also tend to have busier social lives, which prevents them from being lonely – a known cause of dementia – the academics say. 

Scientists are currently unclear on exactly why being lonely could lead to the disorder.

However, they believe social isolation may trigger inflammation in the brain or could make a person more likely to lead an unhealthy lifestyle.

Socialising may also be important to keep the mind engaged in a way that promotes cognitive health. 

The research team, led by Dr Benjamin Chapman, also found calm and mature behaviour were 10 per cent less likely to develop dementia by old age. 

This, they say, is because they are better physiologically equipped to deal with stress, which is thought to accelerate the condition. 

When you’re stressed the body releases a hormone called cortisol which impairs memory.  

The team also find that this 10 per cent risk reduction figure is boosted even higher if the student came from a higher socioeconomic background. 

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On the other hand, adolescents enduring financial hardship, they claim, have to deal with housing problems, money worries and exposure to crime which could cancel out the positive effects of their calm persona. 

Teenagers who exhibited calm and mature behaviour were found to be 10 per cent less likely to develop dementia by the time they were 70 years old (file photo)

Teenagers who exhibited calm and mature behaviour were found to be 10 per cent less likely to develop dementia by the time they were 70 years old (file photo)

Being an energetic and outgoing individual was also shown to improve one's chances of dodging dementia in old age (file photo) by seven per cent

Being an energetic and outgoing individual was also shown to improve one’s chances of dodging dementia in old age (file photo) by seven per cent

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders, that is, conditions affecting the brain.

There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. 

How to spot Alzheimer’s disease 

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory, thinking skills and the ability to perform simple tasks.

It is the cause of 60 percent to 70 percent of cases of dementia. 

 Signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulty remembering newly learned information
  • Disorientation
  • Mood and behavioral changes
  • Suspicion about family, friends and professional caregivers
  • More serious memory loss
  • Difficulty with speaking, swallowing and walking

Stages of Alzheimer’s:

  • Mild Alzheimer’s (early-stage) – A person may be able to function independently but is having memory lapses
  • Moderate Alzheimer’s (middle-stage) – Typically the longest stage, the person may confuse words, get frustrated or angry, or have sudden behavioral changes
  • Severe Alzheimer’s disease (late-stage) – In the final stage, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, carry on a conversation and, eventually, control movement.

The notion that personality traits and the presence of dementia is not new. 

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But until now it has not been clear whether it is the disease that cultivates changes in one’s personality, or if one’s personality can predict the development of dementia.

However, by using a sample which spans 54 years, Dr Chapman has been able to conclude that the traits exhibited as a teenager reflect one’s risk of suffering dementia as an adult.

He achieved this by harvesting data from the 1960 Project Talent survey where 5 per cent of US high school students completed two days worth of questionnaires and tests about themselves.

From these 377,016 students, 82,232 recently provided Medicare information, allowing Dr Chapman to compare their current well-being to their personality test scores half a century ago.

During the 1960 exams, each student was ranked on their sociability, sensitivity, impulsivity, leadership, vigor (outgoing), calm, tidiness (organised), conscientiousness, culture, self-confidence and maturity.

The paper, published in JAMA Psychiatry journal, hailed its own importance in discovering that personality can be used as a barometer to one’s likeliness to get dementia.

Dr Chapman and his team concluded: ‘Ultimately, the findings herein underscore the importance of considering earlier-life social circumstances and personality in evaluating dementia risk in addition to more recent information.

‘Personality phenotype may be a true independent risk factor for dementia by age 70 years, preceding it by almost 5 decades and interacting with adolescent socioeconomic conditions.’ 

WHAT IS DEMENTIA? THE KILLER DISEASE THAT ROBS SUFFERERS OF THEIR MEMORIES

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders

A GLOBAL CONCERN 

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders, that is, conditions affecting the brain.

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There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

Some people may have a combination of types of dementia.

Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.

Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED?

The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, of which more than 500,000 have Alzheimer’s.

It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over 1 million.

In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.

As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.

Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.

IS THERE A CURE?

Currently there is no cure for dementia.

But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted the more effective treatments are.

Source: Alzheimer’s Society 



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