An analysis of 13 studies including more than 1.6 million people uncovered that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may substantially heighten the risk of developing dementia later in life, new research by the University College London suggests.
The study, released online in the British Journal of Psychiatry, involved a diverse number of participants from four continents.
Based on an analysis of data derived from eight of the studies, the research team determined that people with PTSD were at a nearly 60 percent higher risk of dementia. Analysis from two studies of different methods showed that the chances of cognitive decline doubled for people with PTSD.
“A lot of people with PTSD don’t access treatment, sometimes due to a lack of mental health care capacity but also because of stigma which often keeps people away from seeking help. We now have more evidence of how traumatic experiences and accessing treatment could have a long-lasting impact for individuals and influence future risk of developing dementia,” Vasiliki Orgeta, co-author of the study, stated in a news release.
“Our study provides important new evidence of how traumatic experiences can impact brain health, and how the long-term effects of trauma may impact the brain in many ways increasing vulnerability to cognitive decline and dementia.”
The exact cause as to why PTSD increases the risk of dementia remains unknown, however, researchers theorize it may be associated with hallmark traits of PTSD resulting in stress-related activity in the brain, subsequently diminishing cognitive resilience.
According to researchers, treating symptoms of PTSD in diagnosed patients might decrease the risk of dementia and lead to a better quality of life.