Stress in Midlife Linked to Higher Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Stress in Midlife Linked to Higher Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Stress in middle age may contribute to development of Alzheimer’s disease later in life, according to a Swedish study spanning almost 40 years. Psychological stress was associated with a 21 percent greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study of 800 Swedish women born between 1914 and 1930 who underwent neuropsychiatric tests periodically between 1968 and 2005. The research, led by Lena Johansson at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg was published today in the journal BMJ Open.“This suggests that common psychosocial stressors may have severe and long-standing physiological and psychological consequences,” the authors said in the published paper.

The research points to a potential non-medical approach to preventing some cases of dementia, which afflicts at least 35.6 million people globally, according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization. No drugs on the market have been shown to slow progression of the disease. While more studies are needed to confirm the results, interventions such as stress management and behavioral therapy should be investigated, the authors said.

During the monitoring period, 153 women, about a fifth of the total, developed dementia, diagnosed at the average age of 78. About half the women died, at the average age of 79.

Biological Mechanisms

A quarter of the women reported at least one stressor, with mental illness in a family member the most common. The link between psychological stressors and dementia can be explained through a variety of biological mechanisms, such as causing structural and functional damage to the hippocampus, which plays a role in memory and spatial navigation, as well as increasing build-up of beta amyloid plaque and tau protein, typical signs of Alzheimer’s, according to the study’s authors.

“From this study, it is hard to know whether stress contributes directly to the development of dementia, whether it is purely an indicator of another underlying risk in this population of women, or whether the link is due to any entirely different factor,” said Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research U.K., a Cambridge-based charity.

“An important next step will be to investigate the potential reasons for the observed association between midlife stress and dementia risk.”

The research was funded by organizations including the Swedish Medical Research Council, the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research and the U.S. National Institutes on Aging.

To contact the reporter on this story: Makiko Kitamura in London at

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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