A research study indicates that women who reported stress in midlife from experiences like divorce or a family member's illness were more likely to have dementia or Alzheimer's disease in old age.
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The study used data that was gathered from 800 women ages 38 to 54 beginning in 1968; and then, were tracked over the next 37 years.
One hundred fifty three (153) have beed diagnosed with dementia so far. Three hundred and seventy-five of the original 800 women are still alive.
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To study the relation among psychosocial stressors, long-standing distress and incidence of dementia, in a sample of women followed from midlife to late life.
- Setting. The analyses originate from the prospective population study of women in Gothenburg, Sweden, a representative sample of women examined in 1968 (participation rate 90%) and re-examined in 1974, 1980, 1992, 2000 and 2005.
- Participants. 800 women born in 1914, 1918, 1922 and 1930 who were systematically selected for a psychiatric examination at baseline, in 1968.
- Primary and secondary outcome measures 18 psychosocial stressors (eg, divorce, widowhood, work problems and illness in relative) were obtained at baseline.
- Symptoms of distress were measured according to a standardised question at each study wave.
- Dementia was diagnosed according to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R) criteria based on information from neuropsychiatric examinations, informant interviews, hospital records, and registry data, and measured through the whole study period.
- During the 37 years of follow-up, 153 women developed dementia (104 of those had Alzheimer's disease (AD)).
- Number of psychosocial stressors in 1968 was associated with higher incidence of dementia and AD between 1968 and 2005, in multivariate Cox regressions.
- Number of psychosocial stressors in 1968 was also associated with distress in 1968 , 1980, 2000 and 2005 , in multivariate logistic regressions.
- Number of psychosocial stressors and long-standing distress (1968–1974–1980) were independently associated with AD.
- The study shows that common psychosocial stressors may have severe and long-standing physiological and psychological consequences.
- More studies are needed to confirm these results and investigate whether more interventions such as stress management and behavioural therapy should be initiated in individuals who have experienced psychosocial stressors.
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