Older veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia as their peers without PTSD.
PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event, which results in psychological trauma and may impair cognition. To determine whether PTSD is associated with the risk of developing dementia, researchers followed more than 181,093 US veterans aged 55 years and older for seven years. All were free from dementia at the study's outset, while about 30 percent had PTSD.
Nearly 11 percent of the veterans with PTSD developed dementia during follow-up, compared to only about 7 percent of those who didn't have PTSD. Once the researchers took into account factors such as other physical or mental health problems, veterans with PTSD were found to be still nearly twice as likely to develop dementia.
Though PTSD raises the risk of developing dementia, the exact reason is not known, but it's possible that years of stress can cause lasting changes in the brain.