– Conditions such as Alzheimer’s may be linked to mid-life stress
– Divorce, bereavement and trouble at work can all be factors
– Swedish study finds that effects of trauma can be traced decades later
Getting divorced, losing a partner or struggling with work problems in middle-age could increase your risk of suffering dementia in later life, warn researchers.
They found conditions such as Alzheimer’s may be linked to the amount of stress experienced up to four decades earlier.
Common stressful life events can have ‘severe and long-standing physiological and psychological consequences’ in the brain, claims a study that investigated the effects of stress on middle-aged women.
The study began in 1968 when 800 Swedish women underwent neuropsychiatric tests, which were repeated in 1974, 1980, 1992, 2000 and 2005.
At the initial assessment, the women, who were born in 1914, 1918, 1922 and 1930, were asked if and how they had suffered from the impact of 18 different types of dramatic events, known as psychosocial stressors.
These included divorce, becoming a widow, work problems, serious problems with children and ill-health in a relative, including mental illness.
One in four women had suffered at least one stressful event, 23 per cent reported two, one in five had suffered three and 16 per cent had been through four or more, says a report in the online journal BMJ Open.
During the assessment period, 19 per cent (153) of them developed dementia, with 104 of these being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
The number of stressors reported in 1968 was associated with a 21 per cent greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s and a 15 per cent extra risk of developing any type of dementia in later life.
The report said: ‘Common stressors may have severe and long-standing physiological and psychological consequences.
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