Personality predicts cognitive function over 7 years in older persons

Benjamin Chapman, Paul Duberstein, Hilary A. Tindle, Kaycee M. Sink, John Robbins, Daniel J. Tancredi, Peter Franks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Objectives: To determine whether Neuroticism as well as the less-studied dimensions the Five Factor Model of personality (Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness) were associated with 7-year trajectories of cognitive functioning in older persons. Design: Primary analysis of existing clinical trial data. Participants: 602 persons of average age 79 at baseline. Measurements: The NEO-Five Factor Inventory of personality, completed at baseline, and the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination measured every 6 months for 7 years. Results: Controlling for demographics, baseline morbidities including depression, health behaviors, apolipoprotein E4 genotype, and self-rated health, higher Neuroticism was associated with worse average cognitive functioning and a steeper rate of decline over follow-up. Higher Extraversion and lower Openness were both associated with worse average cognitive functioning prospectively, while persons higher in Conscientiousness showed a slower rate of cognitive decline. Conclusions: In addition to Neuroticism, other dispositional tendencies appear prognostically relevant for cognitive functioning in older persons. More work is needed to understand the mechanisms by which traits operate, as well as whether mitigation of certain dispositional tendencies can facilitate a better course of cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)612-621
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Cognitive decline
  • cognitive functioning
  • older persons
  • personality
  • primary care patients


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