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Stressful life events are not associated with the development of dementia

  • Anna Sundström (a1), Michael Rönnlund (a2), Rolf Adolfsson (a3) and Lars-Göran Nilsson (a4)

Abstract

Background:

The impact of stressful life events as a risk factor of dementia diseases is inconclusive. We sought to determine whether stressful negative life events are associated with incidental dementia in a population-based study with long-term follow-up. We also tested the hypothesis that the occurrence of positive life events could mitigate or overcome the possible adverse effects of negative life events on dementia conversion.

Methods:

The study involved 2,462 dementia-free participants aged 55 years and older. Information on life events was ascertained at baseline from a comprehensive Life Event Inventory, which included 56 questions about specific life events. For each life event, the emotional impact (both positive and negative) and emotional adjustment were asked for.

Results:

During follow-up, 423 participants developed dementia; of these, 240 developed Alzheimer's disease (AD). Cox regression analysis showed no association between the total number of negative life events and the incidence of dementia when adjusted solely for age and gender (hazard ratio = 0.97, 95% CI = 0.92–1.02), or with multiple adjustments for a range of covariates (hazard ratio = 0.96, 95% CI = 0.91–1.01). Similarly, neither emotional impact nor emotional adjustment to these life events was associated with incident dementia. A separate analysis of AD did not alter the results.

Conclusions:

The result of this population-based study finds no association between negative or positive life events and dementia. Accordingly, our results reject the hypothesis that stressful life events trigger the onset of dementia diseases.

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Copyright

The online version of this article is published within an Open Access environment subject to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence . The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.

Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Anna Sundström, Centre for Population Studies/Ageing and Living Conditions, and Department of Psychology, Umeå University, S-90187 Umeå, Sweden. Phone: +46 90 786 61 39; Fax: +46 90 786 66 95. Email: anna.sundstrom@psy.umu.se.

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Keywords

Stressful life events are not associated with the development of dementia

  • Anna Sundström (a1), Michael Rönnlund (a2), Rolf Adolfsson (a3) and Lars-Göran Nilsson (a4)

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