Personality and cognitive decline in the baltimore epidemiologic catchment area follow-up study

Rebecca S. Hock, Hochang Benjamin Lee, O. Joseph Bienvenu, Gerald Nestadt, Jack F. Samuels, Jeanine M. Parisi, Paul T. Costa, Adam P. Spira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objective To determine the association between personality domains and 11-year cognitive decline in a sample from a population-based study. Method Data from Waves 3 (1993-1996) and 4 (2003-2004) of the Baltimore cohort of the Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) study were used for analyses. The sample included 561 adults (mean age ± SD: 45.2 ± 10.78 years) who completed the NEO Personality Inventory-Revised prior to Wave 4. Participants also completed the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and immediate and delayed word recall tests at Wave 3, and at Wave 4, 10.9 ± 0.6 years later. Results In models adjusted for baseline cognitive performance, demographic characteristics, medical conditions, depressive symptoms, and psychotropic medication use, each 10-point increase in Neuroticism T-scores was associated with a 0.15-point decrease in MMSE scores (B = -0.15, 95% confidence interval [CI]: -0.30, -0.01), whereas each 10-point increase in Conscientiousness T-scores was associated with a 0.18-point increase on the MMSE (B = 0.18, 95% CI: 0.04, 0.32) and a 0.21-point increase in immediate recall (B = 0.21, 95% CI: 0.003, 0.41) between baseline and follow-up. Conclusion Findings suggest that greater Neuroticism is associated with decline, and greater Conscientiousness is associated with improvement in performance on measures of general cognitive function and memory in adults. Further studies are needed to determine the extent to which personality traits in midlife are associated with clinically significant cognitive outcomes in older adults, such as mild cognitive impairment and dementia, and to identify potential mediators of the association between personality and cognitive trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)917-925
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


  • Personality
  • cognition
  • conscientiousness
  • dementia
  • depression
  • neuroticism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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