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Researchers have known for some time that individuals suffering from depression at a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, a new study suggests that anxiety and depression may accelerate the onset of the disease.

The study, which was conducted at the University of California in San Francisco reveals that individuals that suffer from depression usually experience dementia symptoms about 2 years earlier than non-depressed individuals. The researchers also observed that people with anxiety tend to experience the onset of dementia symptoms 3 years earlier than those who do not suffer from anxiety.

“Certainly this isn’t to say that people with depression and anxiety will necessarily develop Alzheimer’s disease,” stated study author, Dr. Zachary A. Miller.

Dr. Miller noted that people with anxiety and depression should take a precautionary approach and adopt measures that promote long-term mental health. He also added that more research should be conducted in this area to build a better understanding about the link between Alzheimer’s disease and psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression. More knowledge may help delay the development of dementia.

What the study findings revealed

The study evaluated the data from 1,500 people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. They found that 32% of them had a history of anxiety, 43% previously fought depression, and 1.2% had bipolar disorder while 1% battled PTSD. Only 0.4% of them had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Individuals diagnosed with three or more of the aforementioned conditions started experiencing symptoms roughly 7.3 years earlier on average than their peers who did not suffer from any of the psychiatric conditions.

Researchers observed that women were more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than men. Women were also more likely to experience early onset. People with anxiety were more likely to have suffered seizures in the past while individuals with depression were more likely to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in the past.

Miller pointed out that anxiety might indicate overstimulation of neurons, in which case it might pave way for new therapeutic targets for preventing dementia. More research in this areas may open up more understanding and subsequently allow for better preventive care.