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Thursday, April 28, 2022 9:18 AM

Being social may promote brain health

Health & Wellness

A study recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates certain personality traits may be a key factor in whether people develop mild cognitive impairment later in life.

The study found being more conscientious and extroverted keeps mild declines in brain function at bay longer, while having higher levels of neuroticism increases the chances of dementia.

Outlook affects outcome

Nearly 2,000 people participated in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a longitudinal study of older Chicago-area adults that began in 1997. In a longitudinal study, researchers repeatedly examine the same individuals to detect any changes that might have occurred over a period of time.

For this study, the researchers examined the role of three key personality traits — conscientiousness, extroversion and neuroticism — in how people experienced cognitive decline as they aged.

The study found being more extroverted and socially engaged appeared to offer an additional year of dementia-free living. Those traits also boosted a person's ability to recover normal brain function after receiving a previous diagnosis of mild dementia, perhaps due to the benefits of socialization.

How to become more resilient 

Man and a woman high five with paddles over the net of a pickleball courtWhile it’s not always easy to make lifestyle changes that will improve your outlook and alleviate stress, these tips from the Mayo Clinic offer a good place to start.

  • Get active – Physical activity like walking, gardening or swimming can pump up your endorphins and other natural chemicals in your brain that enhance your sense of well-being. Many communities offer free group activities like pickleball or Frisbee golf that can be enjoyed by all ages.

  • Eat a healthy diet – Be sure you’re eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.

  • Laugh more – Laughter not only lightens your mental load but also causes positive physical changes that “cools down your stress response.” 

  • Connect with others – Make that call to an old friend, volunteer or take a class. Try to find activities and events that will help you connect with others. 

Seek counseling 

If you find yourself experiencing physical symptoms you think may be related to anxiety, talk to your doctor or a professional counselor or therapist to be sure you are doing what you can to safeguard your health. 


Source: Personality traits, cognitive states, and mortality in older adulthood, published by the American Psychological Association, 2022