Post-traumatic stress disorder associated with dementia among older veterans

June 7, 2010

Older veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appear more likely to develop dementia over a seven-year period than those without PTSD, according to a report in the June issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

PTSD is a common psychiatric symptom and often occurs in veterans returning from combat, according to background information in the article. As many as 17 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated to have PTSD, and 10 percent to 15 percent of Vietnam veterans had PTSD symptoms 15 years or longer after their return. Previous studies have associated PTSD with a wide variety of medical conditions in younger and middle-aged veterans, along with declines in cognitive (thinking, learning and memory) performance.

Kristine Yaffe, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and colleagues studied 181,093 veterans 55 years and older (average age 68.8, 96.5 percent men) between 1997 and 2000. Of these, 53,155 had PTSD and 127,938 did not.

Over seven years of follow-up, from 2000 to 2007, 31,107 (17.2 percent) of the veterans developed dementia. Veterans with PTSD had a 10.6 percent risk of developing dementia, whereas the risk among those without dementia was 6.6 percent.

Those with PTSD were still more likely to develop dementia when the analyses were adjusted for important differences, including demographic variables and other medical and psychiatric illnesses.

"There are several reasons why patients with PTSD may have an increased risk of developing dementia," the authors write. PTSD may contribute to the cause of dementia, or may link the two conditions. Stress may damage the hippocampus, a brain area critical for memory and learning, or cause alterations in neurotransmitter and hormone levels that could precipitate dementia.

"The finding that PTSD is associated with a near doubling of the risk of dementia has important public health, policy and biological implications," the authors conclude. "It is important that those with PTSD are treated, and further investigation is needed to see whether successful treatment of PTSD may reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes, including dementia. In addition, it is critical to follow up patients with PTSD, especially if they are of an advanced age, to screen for cognitive impairment. Finally, mechanisms linking PTSD and must be identified in hope of finding ways to improve the care and outcomes of patients with PTSD."

More information: Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67[6]:608-613.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Higher cognitive abilities linked to greater risk of stereotyping

July 24, 2017
People with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to learn and apply social stereotypes, finds a new study. The results, stemming from a series of experiments, show that those with higher cognitive abilities also more ...

Psychologists say our 'attachment style' applies to social networks like Facebook

July 24, 2017
A new investigation appearing this week in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests a strong association between a person's attachment style—how avoidant or anxious people are in their close relationships—and ...

Neuroticism may postpone death for some

July 24, 2017
Data from a longitudinal study of over 500,000 people in the United Kingdom indicate that having higher levels of the personality trait neuroticism may reduce the risk of death for individuals who report being in fair or ...

World-first ketamine trial shows promise for geriatric depression

July 24, 2017
Australian researchers have completed the world's first randomised control trial (RCT) assessing the efficacy and safety of ketamine as a treatment for depression in elderly patients.

Musicians have high prevalence of eating disorders, study finds

July 24, 2017
They may live for the limelight and the call of their muse, but musicians may also be prone to eating disorders, according to new research.

Depression changes structure of the brain, study suggests

July 21, 2017
Changes in the brain's structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.