Psychotic Disorders Linked With Increased Risk of Dementia

Dementia, a syndrome characterized by progressive cognitive and functional declines, is one of the leading causes of disability across the globe as reported by The World Health Organization. Prior studies have found a connection between several psychiatric disorders and the risk of developing dementia, with the most extensive research surrounding depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. (PTSD). While there is increasing interest in studying dementia and its causes, the research is still somewhat lacking regarding its connection with more severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and other related psychotic disorders.

Investigating the risk of dementia associated with psychotic disorders, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in Psychological Medicine found that there was a substantial association between the two. According to the study, people with psychotic disorders were upwards of 2.5 times more likely than people without a psychotic disorder to develop dementia later in life. Researchers from the Division of Psychiatry and MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at the University College London (UCL) reviewed a total of 11 studies from 9 countries on four continents. In combination, the studies yielded 12,997,101 participants for analysis.

“We found that having a diagnosis of a psychotic disorder is linked to a much higher risk of developing dementia later in life,” co-senior author Dr. Jean Stafford, said of the study’s findings. Their findings indicated that across multiple different psychotic disorders there was a higher risk of dementia later in life, regardless of the age at which someone first developed their mental illness. Additionally, people with a psychotic disorder tended to be younger than average at dementia diagnosis.

Researchers have been unable to confirm the causes of these associations, as it is more likely multi-faceted and complicated. People with psychotic disorders are more likely to have other health conditions like cardiovascular disease or obesity which leads to an increased the risk of dementia. “As people with psychotic disorders face a higher risk of numerous other health conditions, managing their overall physical and mental health is very important, and here we found that health professionals working with them should also be watchful for any signs of cognitive decline,” lead author Sara El Miniawi concluded.