Psychological stress and dementia risk

a. Occupation-based psychological stress. Work stress can influence the risk of dementia even after retirement, as data from ARC researchers have demonstrated. Wang et al.1 found that a low level of job control was associated with a doubled risk of dementia and AD, but levels of job demands were not associated with an increased risk of dementia. When the two dimensions were combined into a four-category job strain model, both high job strain (low control/high demands) and passive strain (low control/low demands) were related to higher risk of dementia and AD than active job strain (high control/high demands). The findings suggest that lifelong work-related psychosocial stress was associated with increased risk of dementia and AD in late life, independent of other known risk factors1.

b. Late-life psychological stress. Although life after retirement is generally considered to be a peaceful period of life, many psychological challenges may occur as well, such as changes in working routines, loneliness, loss of autonomy, death of loved ones, and deterioration in health, all of which may lead to psychological stress. A project at ARC aims to investigate i) the prevalence of stress in the SNAC-K population and ii) to what extent higher stress levels are a risk factor for cognitive aging, dementia, and worse health in older adults. During the third phase of SNAC-K (2007–2010), the perceived stress scale and measurement of blood cortisol were introduced into the longitudinal design to measure stress levels in older adults. During 2011, stress levels of 1656 community dwelling, 66–96 year-old adults participating in the third phase of SNAC-K were analyzed. Results are forthcoming.

  1. Wang HX, Wahlberg M, Karp A, Winblad B, Fratiglioni L. Psychosocial stress at work is associated with increased dementia risk in late life. Alzheimer Dement 2012; 8(2):114-120.