Both depression and anxiety increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
People who are depressed develop the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, two years earlier, the latest research finds.
Those with anxiety develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s three years earlier.
Having multiple mental health problems is linked to developing symptoms of the disease even sooner.
Dr Zachary A. Miller, the study’s first author, said:
“More research is needed to understand the impact of psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety on the development of Alzheimer’s disease and whether treatment and management of depression and anxiety could help prevent or delay the onset of dementia for people who are susceptible to it.
Certainly this isn’t to say that people with depression and anxiety will necessarily develop Alzheimer’s disease, but people with these conditions might consider discussing ways to promote long-term brain health with their health care providers.”
The study included 1,500 people with Alzheimer’s disease who were asked about their mental health.
The results revealed that the more mental health problems people had, the sooner they began experiencing dementia symptoms.
Three or more psychiatric disorders together was linked to developing symptoms more than 7 years earlier them.
Both depression and anxiety were linked to a history of autoimmune disorders.
Dr Miller said:
“While this association between depression and autoimmune disease, and seizures and anxiety is quite preliminary, we hypothesize that the presentation of depression in some people could possibly reflect a greater burden of neuroinflammation.
The presence of anxiety might indicate a greater degree of neuronal hyperexcitability, where the networks in the brain are overstimulated, potentially opening up new therapeutic targets for dementia prevention.”
The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 73rd Annual Meeting (Miller et al., 2021).