Dementia’s stress link could be overstated as PTSD sufferers found to be at risk study details

Person with dementia
-Credit: (Image: GETTY)

Chronic stress has notoriously been linked with memory issues and dementia, but the impact of stress and the hormone it releases may be overstated, one study showed. Cortisol, the stress hormone, has scientifically been linked to problems with memory while chronic stress itself has been proven to have devastating long-term consequences on emotional, mental and physical health.

While some animal models in research, according to Alzheimer’s Society, revealed stress had a direct impact on the underlying mechanisms of dementia, the countless variabilities it causes in humans have turned it into a complicated entanglement for researchers.

Stress has been closely linked with conditions like depression and anxiety as well as having a proven impact on the immune system, all of which have been suggested as factors potentially increasing the risk of dementia. This makes it harder to directly link stress to the disease without its common comorbidities.

While studies continued to be plagued with this interference, research funded by the Alzheimer’s Society revealed the staggering connection between PTSD and dementia. Analysis of the literature surrounding the two mental illnesses revealed PTSD patients have up to twice the risk of developing dementia.

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a diagnosed mental health condition as a result of a life-changing or distressing event. It’s not yet fully understood how the two conditions interact and the charity highlighted that having PTSD doesn’t guarantee that a person will develop dementia too.

Alzheimer’s Society’s study on long-term stress and dementia tested people at the start of the trial and tacked their thinking skills and any potential dementia developments among participants.

At the start of the study, those with memory and thinking problems had higher stress levels than healthier individuals but the level of stress they felt wasn’t found to correspond with how much their thinking abilities declined or whether they developed dementia. As a result, current evidence suggests chronic stress may play a role in the development or progression of dementia but does not necessarily cause the disease.