There has been an increased focus on mental health and both the short and long-term effects of such pathologies on patients

With the ever increasing aging population, knowing how mental health can influence quality of life later in life is gaining traction.

Much has been said about anxiety and how it could be tied to cognitive impairment and dementia later in life, as such, researchers are exploring anxiety as a potentially modifiable risk factor for dementia.

In 2017, the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (SOF) Research Group noted that mild symptoms of anxiety may increase the risk of dementia. For the 1,425 women in the study (mean age 82.8), those who showed mild anxiety symptoms during baseline tests were more likely to develop dementia over the 5 year study period than those with no anxiety symptoms.

More recently, a study (Gimson, Schlosser, Huntley, & Marchant, 2018) found a correlation between a future diagnosis of dementia and clinically significant anxiety in 28,819 subjects. When anxiety is present in midlife, it could be a risk factor for dementia later in life.

Researchers also noted that the anxiety affecting dementia risk has a different clinical presentation than the anxiety present in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease (prodromal cognitive decline).

Researchers are calling for further studies as to whether clinical anxiety, separate from a prodromal symptom, is a risk factor for dementia. If so, it would lead to clinicians being able to address a modifiable risk factor for dementia.

References

  • Kassem, A.M., Ganguli, M., Yaffe, K., Hanlon, J.T., Lopez, O.L., Wilson, J.W., Ensrud, K., & Cauley, J.A. (2017). Anxiety symptoms and risk of dementia and mild cognitive impairment in the oldest old women. Aging & Mental Health, 22(4), 474-482. doi:10.1080/13607863.2016.1274370
  • Gimson, A., Schlosser, M., Huntley, J.D., & Marchant N.L. (2018). Support for midlife anxiety diagnosis as an independent risk factor for dementia: a systematic review. BMJ Open, (8)4. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-019399