A total of 2657 adults were studied, between the ages of 40 and 70. The research assessed the relation between symptoms of anxiety and depression to memory and thinking.
Yen Ying Lim, a researcher and associate professor, detailed that raised levels of anxiety were linked to a person’s low level attention span and memory retention.
Associate professor Lim explains, “The observation that anxiety symptoms are related to poorer memory, particularly in late-middle-aged adults, suggests that anxiety may also be an indicator of the earliest stage of Alzheimer’s disease, or that it may be related to the development of dementia in some way.”
Speaking to the Herald Sun, Lim notes that among medical professionals the exact triggers and impact of Alzheimer’s disease remain to be fully understood.
The reach on Australians and their families continues to become evident, it is estimated that 472,000 Australians are living with dementia in 2021, with the number projected to increase significantly over the coming decades. Alzheimer’s, categorised as a degenerative brain disease, is understood to be the most common cause of dementia.
Dementia Australia highlights that the numbers that Australia would face could be over a million by 2058, without a significant breakthrough in understanding cause, avenues of reversal and prevention.
Associate professor Lim says, “In the absence of a cure for the disease we have to look at what we can do.”
Understanding areas to look at when considering the development of dementia is a start, with the medical community pointing to main risk factors being age and family history.
The study, co-authored by researcher Stephanie Perin and published in the Journal of Affective Disorders has uncovered new links that may contribute to navigating and responding to the progression of dementia.
Assoc prof Lim explains that the findings suggest being aware of and managing anxiety symptoms at the earliest possible time, particularly in mid life, may contribute to reducing a person’s risk of developing dementia.
Outlining further she continues, “Screening for these symptoms may be a means of identifying people experiencing, or at risk of, cognitive decline.”
“Anxiety might be related but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be Alzheimer’s but it’s certainly something important to look at.
“Alzheimer’s is complex and there are many things that can contribute to it.
“More research is needed to understand exactly what is happening in the brain that links depression and anxiety symptoms to cognitive decline and ultimately, the development of dementia.”
Further research is being done via a clinical trial at BetterBrains, to conduct the testing of the initial findings of the study and to assess if bettering mood may mitigate the deterioration of memory.