Post Traumatic Stress in Vets Increases Risk of Dementia

Military veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to develop dementia than their peers who do not suffer from PTSD. Even as the debate continues about whether or not the government is doing enough to care for the vets, it has now been discovered that the most common disorder among vets – post traumatic stress disorder – is also makes it more likely that the veteran will suffer from dementia later in life.

The study, conducted by Dr. Kristine Yaffe from the University of California in San Francisco in conjunction with the San Francisco Veterans Affair Medical Center, was conducted with the participation of nearly 200,000 vets over the age of 55 for a total of seven years. None of the participants in the study suffered from dementia at the time, but about a third of the group had post traumatic stress disorder.

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Over the course of the seven years, more than 10 percent of the veterans who had suffered from post traumatic stress disorder developed dementia, compared with a rate of dementia of only seven percent in those who did not suffer from PTSD.

Even after factoring out all other variables that could have caused the difference, such as physical and mental health issues, the study showed that those who suffered from PTSD were twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia as they aged.

The study, which appeared in the Archives of General Psychiatry’s latest issue, acknowledges the problem. “The implications in terms of taking care of patients with PTSD, particularly as they age, are pretty big. It’s going to be an area that’s important for us to understand better.”

The implication of the report is broad since more than 17 percent of the soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are diagnosed with PTSD. Post traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder in which a person becomes anxious in response to being forced to be in a high-stress, life-threatening situation.

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