In a new study at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden and University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio, researchers have demonstrated that feelings of hopelessness indeed are more common among persons with dementia, but that these feelings already existed twenty years before the diagnoses were made (see figure).
The new findings give strong support to the idea that negative feelings already in midlife can affect dementia risk in later life: persons with elevated feelings of hopelessness in midlife had almost a three-fold risk increase of Alzheimers disease, also after consideration of individual differences in age, hypertension, genetic factors, sex, BMI and other factors of relevance for dementia risk. The association for hopelessness in midlife was even significant after additional adjustments for hopelessness and other depressive feelings at follow-up. This study also shows that the increased risk of hopelessness feelings was especially pronounced among persons who also carried the ApoE4 allele, the major genetic risk factor for Alzheimers disease.
The study builds on population data from Eastern Finland with 1409 participants and has a unique follow-up time of twenty years. An important feature is also that hopelessness feelings were measured in later life shortly before, not after, the participants were screened for a possible dementia disease.
Two other population based studies from the US had a similar design, but with several follow-up measurements. These studies also found no noticeable increases of depressive feelings during the follow-up time. Taken together, these studies demonstrate that carrying negative feelings could increase the risk for dementia.
The new study was performed by Professor Hilkka Soininen of the University of Eastern Finland, Research Director, Professor Miia Kivipelto of the University of Eastern Finland and Karolinska Institutet, as well as Professor Bengt Winblad and PhD Student Krister Håkansson of Karolinska Institutet, and was published on October 13 in PLOS ONE.
For further information, please contact:
Professor Hilkka Soininen, University of Eastern Finland, Neurology, tel. +358 40 573 5749, hilkka.soininen (at) uef.fi
Krister Håkansson, Hilkka Soininen, Bengt Winblad & Miia Kivipelto. Feelings of Hopelessness in Midlife and Cognitive Health in Later Life: A Prospective Population-Based Cohort Study. PLOS ONE, October 13, 2015. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0140261