Study details disturbing link between PTSD and spike in dementia risk

If you suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), you face more than double the risk of developing dementia later in life — at least according to a new study from University College London. This study represents the first time a meta-analysis has been conducted on worldwide data related to PTSD and the related dementia risk, shedding light on yet another potential long-term health consequence associated with mental illness.

The new meta-analysis looked into the findings from 13 studies from around the world, ultimately using data on nearly 1.7 million people with a follow-up period of up to 17 years. People in the general population who suffered from PTSD were more than twice as likely to experience dementia late in life compared to diagnosed veterans, indicating that getting treatment may reduce dementia risk.

Ultimately, PTSD sufferers were found to be 61-percent more likely to develop dementia in old age compared to those who never suffered from the mental health issue. However, the researchers note the risk could be even higher because PTSD often comes alongside other mental health dementia risk factors like depression and excessive drinking.

The researchers can’t yet say how PTSD increases dementia risk, but it may be a combination of factors, including the chronic effects of stress on brain health, as well as the dementia risk associated with the social isolation common to PTSD sufferers. This underscores the need to seek mental health support when dealing with conditions like this.

The study’s senior author Dr. Vasiliki Orgeta said:

PTSD, which appears to be common among people who have been hospitalised with Covid-19, remains an underdiagnosed, undertreated, and under researched mental health condition, yet it can have serious long-term consequences. As our study has shown, PTSD impacts our brain health by increasing vulnerability to dementia. An important question is how, and whether we could learn from these findings to develop preventative treatments for those with elevated risk.

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