Recent data suggests that a mental health diagnosis may be associated with an increased risk of dementia later in life.

Depression has been linked to the development of dementia later in life. Scientists have posited that the “depressed brain” is in a kind of inflammatory state. Over time the brain can atrophy and develop plaques. Dementia affects memory, thinking and social abilities. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, accounting for between 60% and 80% of cases; other types of dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.

The link between other mental disorders and dementia has not been as clear. In a recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers analyzed health care records of 1.7 million New Zealand citizens over three decades, ranging from ages 21 to 60, and found that individuals with a mental-disorder diagnosis were more than four times as likely to develop dementia than those without a mental disorder. The researchers also found that psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, were associated with a higher risk of dementia, as compared to depression and anxiety, even adjusting for age, sex, and socioeconomic risk factors. While there seems to be an association between mental illness and dementia, we cannot assign a causal relationship just yet. More work needs to be done in this area.

CalPsychiatry is pleased to have Dr. Juliet Morgan, board certified in both neurology and psychiatry, as part of its treatment team. She brings a special knowledge of neuroanatomy and neuropsychiatry to her practice. Call or go online to book an initial consultation.


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