Researchers have found that preventing and treating mental disorders in young people can reduce the risk of developing dementia when they are older. It’s as if proper treatment of some disorders, such as depression, could reduce an individual’s likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease – the most common type of dementia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Published in a scientific journal gamma psychiatry, The study looking at factors that increase the risk of developing dementia in old age was developed by an international team of researchers, such as members from the University of Michigan in the United States, and members from the University of Oslo in Norway.
The authors of the results say: “In this study, mental disorders were associated with the onset of dementia in the population. Care for mental disorders early in life may also improve neurodegenerative conditions and extend quality of life in old age.” “Associations have been observed in different mental disorders, suggesting that preventing any disorder early in life can benefit cognitive health later in life.”
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It should be noted that depression, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are some of the prime examples of mental disorders.
The relationship between mental disorders and dementia
At the start of the study, 1.7 million New Zealanders between the ages of 21 and 60 were included. These volunteers were followed for three decades (from 1988 to 2018). The idea was to determine whether people with mental disorders were at any increased risk of developing dementia in the future.
For Leah Richmond-Ruckerd, a researcher at the University of Michigan, most research and treatments in geriatrics focus on physical issues, leaving these people’s mental health aside during their lives. However, the approach must be multidisciplinary, encompassing all aspects of an individual’s health, including mental health.
What did you find out about the risks?
Interestingly, the scientists found that mental disorders were more associated with dementia than chronic physical illnesses. Even the indicators were the same for women and men.
Furthermore, the association between psychiatric disorders and dementia was not explained by any pre-existing chronic physical illness or any socioeconomic deprivation. For the team of scientists, this is an indication that the cause may, in fact, be the individual’s mental health history.
Just warning signs
However, Ricard notes that mental disorders are merely early warning signs of dementia. “Mental health problems are not a ‘life sentence’ that always leads to dementia,” he explains.
For example, people with any of these disorders should follow appropriate treatment. In addition, it is important that they are encouraged to adopt physical activities on a daily basis. This is, so far, a promising way to help prevent or delay the risk of developing dementia, according to the researchers.
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