Psychological distress a risk factor for dementia

  • A large Danish study has found that the greater number of symptoms of distress in late midlife, the more likely the individual was to develop dementia later in life.

Survey data from 6,807 Danish older adults (average age 60) in the Copenhagen City Heart Study, has found that being distressed in late midlife is associated with a higher risk of dementia in later life.

The survey measured “vital exhaustion”, which is operationalized as feelings of unusual fatigue, increased irritability and demoralization and can be considered an indicator of psychological distress. Vital exhaustion is suggested to be a response to unsolvable problems in individuals' lives, in particular when being incapable of adapting to prolonged exposure to stressors.

The study found a dose-response relation between symptoms of vital exhaustion reported in late midlife and the risk of dementia later in life:

  • for every additional symptom, dementia incidence increased by 2%
  • those reporting 5 to 9 symptoms had a 25% higher risk of dementia compared to those with no symptoms
  • those reporting 10 to 17 symptoms (the maximum) had a 40% higher risk of dementia compared with not having symptoms.

Results were adjusted for gender, marital status, lower educational level, lifestyle factors and comorbidities.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-01/ip-pdi011719.php

Full paper available at: https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad180478

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