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Psychiatric Illness May Not Increase Alzheimer’s Risk

Psychiatric Illness May Not Increase Alzheimer’s Risk

New research finds that psychiatric disorders do not increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses does increase before an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Investigators from the University of Eastern Finland believe the mental health issues observed before an Alzheimer’s diagnosis may be non-specific early signs of AD.

In the study, researchers found the diagnosis of a mood disorder or any psychiatric disorder was associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s over a five year period. However, the associations disappeared if the mental issues had been experienced for over 10 years.

Researchers believe the exponential increase in the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in the five year window before an AD diagnosis suggests the psychiatric disorders might actually have been prodromal symptoms (early signs) of Alzheimer’s disease.

This underlines the importance of proper differential diagnostics of Alzheimer’s disease.

Further, the findings also highlight the importance of using an appropriate time window when assessing the risk factors of neurodegenerative diseases with a long onset period. Otherwise the identified “risk factors” may actually be manifestations of the neurodegenerative disease.

It should also be acknowledged that although psychiatric disorders diagnosed 10-40 years before Alzheimer’s disease were not related to a higher risk, the life expectancy of persons with psychiatric disorders was, and is still decreased.

Thus, those persons with psychiatric disorders who lived long enough to develop Alzheimer’s disease were a selected sample of all persons with psychiatric disorders.

The study included all Finnish community dwellers with clinically verified Alzheimer’s disease at the end of 2005. Their history of psychiatric disorders since 1972 was extracted from the Finnish Hospital Discharge Register. Chronic disorders and substance abuse were also taken into account.

The results were published in the journal European Psychiatry.

Source: University of Easterm Finland/EurekAlert

Psychiatric Illness May Not Increase Alzheimer’s Risk

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Psychiatric Illness May Not Increase Alzheimer’s Risk. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 5 Apr 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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