Stressful experiences can age the brain, research suggests
Stressful life experiences can age the brain by several years, new research suggests. Experts led by a team from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health found that even one major stressful event early in life may have an impact on later brain health.
The team examined data for 1,320 people with an average age of 58 who reported stressful experiences. A series of neuropsychological tests examined areas including memory. The results showed that a larger number of stressful events was linked to poorer cognitive function in later life.
The study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London. Maria Carrillo, its chief science officer, said: “The stressful events that the researchers were focusing on were a large variety ... the death of a parent, abuse, loss of a job, loss of a home ... divorce.” She said that even a change of school could be regarded as a stressful life event for some children.
Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We know that prolonged stress can have an impact on our health, so it’s no surprise that this study indicates stressful life events may also affect our memory and thinking abilities later in life. However, it remains to be established whether these stressful life events can lead to an increased risk of dementia.
“The findings do indicate that more should be done to support people from disadvantaged communities that are more likely to experience stressful life events. As we improve our understanding of risk factors for dementia, it is increasingly important to establish the role that stress and stressful life events play.”
The test results showed stressful events were linked to poorer cognitive functions later in a person’s life