Neurosis Linked to Later-Life Alzheimer’s In Women

A Swedish suggests women who worry and have poor coping skills for stress have increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

Middle age mood swings also place a women at higher risk for Alzheimer’s.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, started in 1968 when 800 women took a personality test that measured, among other things, their levels of neuroticism and extraversion.

Investigators asked women in the study if they had experienced long periods of high stress, and delivered memory tests.

At the follow-up in 2006, nearly 40 years later, around one-fifth of these women had developed dementia.

“We could see that the women who developed Alzheimer’s disease had more often been identified in the personality test 40 years earlier as having neurotic tendencies,” said researcher Lena Johansson, Ph.D., of the University of Gothenburg.

“We found a clear statistical correlation for the women who had at the same time been subject to a long period of stress.”

Typically, a tendency to neuroticism is found among those who are more readily worried, distressed, and experience mood swings. Difficulty in managing stress is often present as well.

“We know that many factors influence the risk of developing dementia. Our personality may determine behavior, lifestyle, and how we react to stress, and in this way affect the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” said Johansson.

Researchers discovered personalities with a tendency to extraversion or introversion did not increase the risk of developing the disease.

However, they did find that shy women, who at the same time became easily worried, turned out to have the highest increase in risk in the study.

Previous research into Alzheimer disease has focused on other factors such as education, family history, and genetics. This is the first study that has followed participants from middle age to old age, and it shows the significance that personality may have in the risk of developing Alzheimer disease.

“Some studies have shown that long periods of stress can increase the risk of Alzheimer disease, and our main hypothesis is that it is the stress itself that is harmful. A person with neurotic tendencies is more sensitive to stress than other people,” said Johansson.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Almost two-thirds of those are women.

Source: University of Gothenburg

Elderly woman with Alzheimer’s photo by shutterstock.