London: Women who suffer mid-life stress
are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer`s disease than those
who lead a normal life, says a new study.
Researchers in Sweden have found that repeated
episodes of stress and anxiety in middle age can almost double
a woman`s risk of developing Alzheimer`s disease, the most
common form of dementia, the `Brain` journal reported.
Lead researcher Lena Johansson of the University of
Gothenburg said: "This is the first study to show that stress
in middle age can lead to dementia in old age, and confirms
similar findings from studies of animals."
For their study, the researchers followed the progress
of 1,415 women between 1968 and 2000. Three surveys in 1968,
1974 and 1980 were carried out to assess psychological stress
levels experienced by the subjects, who were aged between 38
and 60 at the start of the study.
Stress was defined as a "sense of irritation, tension,
nervousness, anxiety, fear or sleeping problems" lasting one
month or more.
During the course of the study, 161 of the
women taking part developed dementia, mainly in the form of
Alzheimer`s disease. Dementia risk was 65 per cent higher in
women who suffered frequent stress in middle age.
The chances of developing dementia increased
as women responded to more than one survey by saying they were
frequently stressed. The risk increased by 73 per cent when
women reported frequent or constant stress on two occasions,
and doubled when all the surveys showed they`re stressed.
Johansson was quoted by the `Daily Mail` as
saying, "Stress has previously been shown to increase the risk
of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, heart attack and
"This study could result in a better understanding
of the risk factors for dementia, but our results need to be
confirmed by other studies, and further research is needed in
"Most of those who said that they were stressed did
not develop dementia, so it`s not currently possible to advise
people to be less stressed or warn about the dangers of high
stress levels due to an increased risk of dementia."