Post-traumatic stress disorder could double the risk of dementia in old age

People who have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are up to twice as likely to develop dementia later in life, according to a new study by UCL researchers.

The research, published on British Journal of Psychiatry, is the first meta-analysis of global evidence on the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and dementia.

For the study, the researchers analyzed the results of 13 studies across four continents, including data from a total of 1,693,678 people, investigating whether a diagnosis of PTSD was associated with an increased risk of dementia. up to 17 years later.

Putting together data from eight studies, the researchers found that people with post-traumatic stress disorder face a 61 percent higher risk of dementia. Analyzing data from two studies that used different methods, they found that post-traumatic stress disorder was associated with twice the odds of developing dementia. *

The risk of dementia among people who had PTSD was higher in the general population than in veterans, as in the general population, people diagnosed with PTSD were more than twice as likely to develop dementia. Researchers say this could indicate an effect of PTSD treatment: Veterans are generally more likely to receive treatment for PTSD (at least in the countries where the studies were conducted) , so the findings suggest that treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder may reduce the subsequent risk of dementia.

Senior author Dr Vasiliki Orgeta (UCL Psychiatry) said, “Our study provides important new evidence of how traumatic experiences can impact brain health and how the long-term effects of trauma can impact brain health. brain in many ways by increasing vulnerability to cognitive decline and dementia.

“Many people with PTSD do not access treatment, sometimes due to a lack of mental health care skills but also due to the stigma that often prevents people from seeking help. We now have more evidence of how traumatic experiences and access treatment could have a lasting impact on individuals and influence the future risk of developing dementia. “

Researchers say the risk may be higher than studies suggest, as PTSD also increases the likelihood of developing other known dementia risk factors, such as depression, social isolation or high alcohol consumption. Most studies have adjusted to some of these factors, so the overall results may underestimate the true cost of PTSD.

It is unclear how PTSD increases the risk of dementia, but researchers say it may be related to hypervigilance and recurrence of recurrent trauma, contributing to the threat and stress-related activity in the brain. while withdrawal from social life can reduce cognitive reserve and resilience.

The study’s first author, Mia Maria Günak, conducted the research as part of her master’s thesis in Dr. Orgeta’s laboratory at UCL. He commented: “Our findings add to a growing body of evidence that dementia can sometimes be prevented by addressing risk factors over an individual’s lifetime.

“Here we have identified an additional group of people facing a high risk of dementia who may benefit from additional mental health support.”

Dr. Orgeta added: “Post-traumatic stress disorder, which appears to be common among people who have been hospitalized with Covid-19, remains an underdiagnosed, undertreated and under researched mental health condition, but can have serious consequences for long term. As our study has shown, post-traumatic stress disorder impacts our brain health by increasing vulnerability to dementia. An important question is how and if we can learn from these findings to develop preventative treatments for people. at high risk “.

The researchers were supported by the NIHR University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Center and the Alzheimer’s Society.

This research is the latest in a series of UCL-led studies investigating how life-long modifiable factors can influence the risk of dementia, including a major review and meta-analysis of 12 risk factors such as lack of education, hearing loss and smoking, as well as other recent studies on how repetitive negative thinking and living alone can increase the risk of dementia.

* Eight studies used hazard ratios to estimate the impact of PTSD on dementia risk, while another two used odds ratios, so they were grouped separately. Three other studies were included in the meta-analyzes but were not part of the pooled data.


Günak MM, Billings J, Carratu E, Marchant NL, Favarato G, Orgeta V. Post-traumatic stress disorder as a risk factor for dementia: systematic review and meta-analysis. The British Journal of Psychiatry. Published online undefined / ed: 1-9. doi: 10.1192 / bjp.2020.150

This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: the material may have changed in length and content. For more information, contact the source cited.

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