Posted on Oct 06, 2023, 5 p.m.
A study published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy suggests that those between the ages of 18-65 years old with a previous diagnosis of depression and chronic stress are more likely than others to be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease, and addresses possible associations between chronic stress, mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Currently, there is no known cure for AD, and the number of people affected by this debilitating mind-wasting disease is increasing with our life expectancy and aging population. Previous studies have demonstrated a possible association between chronic stress, depression, and dementia, this study shows that those who have been diagnosed with chronic stress or depression are more likely to be diagnosed with AD.
According to the researchers, the risk of AD was more than twice as high in those with chronic stress and those with depression as it was in their counterparts without either condition and in those with both conditions it was 4-5 times as high. Additionally, the risk of developing cognitive impairment was found to be elevated by around the same amount.
"The risk is still very small and the causality is unknown," says the study's last author Axel C. Carlsson, docent at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet. "That said, the finding is important in that it enables us to improve preventative efforts and understand links with the other risk factors for dementia."
For this study data was utilized from the Region Stockholm’s Administrative Healthcare Database, focusing on patients between the ages of 18-65 from 2012- 2013. The researchers identified 44,447 people who were diagnosed with chronic stress and/or depression; these patients were followed for 8 years to investigate how many were later diagnosed with AD or mild cognitive impairment. Comparison with the other 1,362,548 patients in the age bracket showed that more people with depression or chronic stress were also diagnosed later on with mild cognitive impairment or AD.
"It's very uncommon for people in this age group to develop dementia, so we need to identify all possible risk factors for the disease," says Dr Carlsson. "We show here that the diagnosis is more common in people who have suffered chronic stress or depression, but more studies will be required if we're to demonstrate any causality there."
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