Anxiety in midlife linked to dementia risk

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By Alice Tuohy | Monday 30 April 2018

BMJ Open: Support for midlife anxiety diagnosis as an independent risk factor for dementia: a systematic review

Scientists in the UK have found an association between anxiety in midlife and risk of developing dementia up to ten years later. The findings are published in the scientific journal the BMJ Open.

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression have been linked to dementia before and many overlapping symptoms make a dementia diagnosis difficult. This review took a high-quality approach, combining findings from four existing studies exploring anxiety as a risk factor for dementia. This approach revealed a link between anxiety in midlife and dementia, but large differences between the individual studies meant researchers were unable to comprehensively analyse the results.

 “It’s important to remember that just because there is an association between the two factors does not necessarily mean that anxiety causes dementia. Dementia is caused by a complex mix of risk factors including age and genetics and although this study looked at dementia in people more than ten years after being diagnosed with anxiety, we know the diseases leading to dementia can begin in the brain up to twenty years before any symptoms show.

“Much more research is required to understand the mechanisms underpinning this link, and to see if different forms of anxiety treatment could have any effect on dementia risk. Anyone who is concerned about their mental health they should seek advice from their doctor.”

About the author

Alice Tuohy