Men and women who are distressed in midlife could be at higher risk of developing dementia in their old age, suggests a new study.
The study showed that vital exhaustion, which can be perceived as an indicator of psychological distress, is a risk factor for future risk of dementia.
Psychological distress is potentially linked to the risk of dementia through neurological and cardiovascular mechanisms.
The findings, led by researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, revealed that for each additional symptom of vital exhaustion, the risk of dementia rose by two per cent.
While participants reporting five to nine symptoms had a 25 per cent higher risk of dementia than those with no symptoms, those reporting 10 to 17 symptoms had a 40 per cent higher risk of dementia compared with not having symptoms.
Importantly, physiological stress response, including cardiovascular changes and excessive production of cortisol over a prolonged period, may also contribute to linking psychological distress with an increased risk of dementia, revealed the study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
"Stress can have severe and harmful consequences not just for our brain health, but our health in general. Cardiovascular risk factors are well-known modifiable risk factors for dementia, and in some countries, a stagnation or even a decreasing incidence of dementia has been observed," said Sabrina Islamoska, postdoctoral student from the varsity.
For the study, the team included 6,807 Danish participants aged 60 years on average.
Psychological distress is an important risk factor that should receive more focus when considering prevention initiatives in relation to later dementia, the team said.