Neuroticism, negative life events, and dementia in older White and Black Brazilians

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2021 Jun;36(6):901-908. doi: 10.1002/gps.5491. Epub 2021 Jan 23.


Objective: Exposure to negative life events (NLEs) and neuroticism are associated with dementia. It is unknown whether neuroticism explains or modifies the association of NLEs with dementia in older Black and White Brazilians.

Methods: A total of 1747 decedents 65 years and older White and Black (11% Black and 23% Mixed) Brazilians, 53% women, were included in the analyses. Data were obtained in a face-to-face interview with an informant (71% their children) who knew the decedents for 47 years on average. Dementia was classified using the Clinical Dementia Rating. NLEs were assessed with a 10-item scale involving common problems (e.g., death, illness, alcoholism, and financial). Neuroticism was assessed with a 6-item neuroticism scale adapted from the NEO Five-Factor Inventory. Models adjusted for age, sex, and education. Black and mixed-race were combined in the analyses.

Results: NLEs (median of 2) were more common in Blacks than Whites (2.04 vs. 1.82, p = 0.007). More NLEs increased the odds of dementia (OR = 1.112, β = 0.106, p = 0.002), similarly in Blacks and Whites (β interaction = 0.046, p = 0.526). More NLEs were also associated with higher neuroticism (β = 0.071, p < 0.0001), in Whites but not in Blacks (β interaction = -0.048, p = 0.006). Neuroticism was associated with higher odds of dementia (OR = 1.658, β = 0.506, p=<0.001), in Whites but not in Blacks (β interaction = -0.420, p = 0.040). Overall, 34% of the effect of NLEs on dementia was associated with the underlying neuroticism trait in Whites (65%, Indirect OR = 1.060, p < 0.001) but no association was evident in Blacks (6%, Indirect OR = 1.008, p = 0.326). Neuroticism did not moderate the association of NLEs with dementia (OR = 0.979, β = -0.021, p = 0.717).

Conclusion: The association of NLEs and dementia is partially explained by neuroticism in older White but not in Blacks Brazilians.

Keywords: African American; Black; Brazil; Brazilians; Latinos; White; dementia; life events; neuroticism; psychosocial stressors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • African Americans*
  • Aged
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Dementia*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuroticism