Exploring the relationship between personality and subjective cognitive impairment in older adults without dementia Public

Subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) refers to the perception of cognitive impairment that is not detected upon objective testing. SCI in the older adult population may be an indicator of preclinical dementia or may be affected by other factors, such as personality. Currently neuroticism, a personality trait that indicates the extent to which an individual is apt to be anxious, worried, or depressed, has been most frequently associated with SCI. Understanding the relationship between SCI and personality traits would influence how SCI is assessed and managed in the older adult population. The purpose of this systematic review was to understand the relationship between personality (specifically the “big five” traits of neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness) and SCI in older adults without dementia. A comprehensive literature search was conducted using PubMed, Web of Science, and CINAHL databases by searching for personality and twelve key terms for SCI commonly used in the literature. Inclusion criteria were that the articles must be written in English, measure and discuss SCI and a big five personality trait together, and include participants that were older than 50 or had a mean age older than 60. Articles were excluded if they were duplicates of previously identified articles or focused on changes in personality throughout dementia. The year of publication was neither an inclusion nor exclusion criteria because the science on this subject is early. A total of fifteen articles were included in the review. The evidence was reviewed overall as well as comparisons made based on study design (cross-sectional versus longitudinal), SCI measure, sample size, and sample age ranges. The most notable finding was that a high level of SCI was found to be positively associated with neuroticism. Additionally, just over half of the studies found a negative association between a higher level of extraversion and SCI, a majority of the studies found no relationship between openness and SCI, a majority of the studies found no relationship between agreeableness and SCI, and half of the studies found a negative relationship between higher conscientiousness and SCI. The results did not differ greatly when comparing the different study designs and characteristics. Clinically, nurses need to be aware of the relationship between neuroticism and personality. Implementing a personality test to recognize neuroticism in individuals could help nurses screen which individuals will be more likely to report SCI and which individuals may not. Future research needs to determine the reason for the relationship between neuroticism and SCI and whether individuals with a high level of neuroticism are better at recognizing their cognitive decline that cannot be measured objectively or more apt to complain about their memory when there is not actual cognitive impairment.


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