Higher levels of neuroticism in older adults predict lower executive functioning across time: The mediating role of perceived stress

Chloe Da Silva Coelho*, Emilie Joly-Burra, Andreas Ihle, Nicola Ballhausen, Maximilian Haas, Alexandra Hering, Morgane Kunzi, Gianvito Laera, Greta Mikneviciute, Doriana Tinello, Matthias Kliegel, Sascha Zuber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

32 Downloads (Pure)


Neuroticism has been associated with individual differences across multiple cognitive functions. Yet, the literature on its specific association with executive functions (EF) in older adults is scarce, especially using longitudinal designs. To disentangle the specific influence of neuroticism on EF and on coarse cognitive functioning in old adulthood, respectively, we examined the relationship between neuroticism, the Trail Making Test (TMT) and the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) in a 6-year longitudinal study using Bayesian analyses. Data of 768 older adults (M-age = 73.51 years at Wave 1) were included in a cross-lagged analysis. Results showed no cross-sectional link between neuroticism and TMT performance at Wave 1 and no longitudinal link between neuroticism at Wave 1 and MMSE at Wave 2. However, neuroticism at Wave 1 predicted TMT performance at Wave 2, indicating that the more neurotic participants were, the lower they performed on the TMT six years later. Additional analyses showed that this relation was fully mediated by participants' perceived stress. Our results suggest that the more neurotic older adults are the more stress they may perceive six years later, which in turn negatively relates to their EF. In sum, this study demonstrates that neuroticism may lead to lower EF in older age across six years. It further suggests older adults' perceived stress as mediator, thereby providing novel insights into the mechanisms underlying this relation. Possible intervention approaches to counter these effects are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-649
JournalEuropean Journal of Ageing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • AGE
  • Aging
  • Cross-lagged modeling
  • Executive functions
  • Longitudinal study
  • Neuroticism
  • Perceived stress


Dive into the research topics of 'Higher levels of neuroticism in older adults predict lower executive functioning across time: The mediating role of perceived stress'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this