Objective: Preventing Alzheimer's dementia (AD) fundamentally equates to delaying onset. Thus, we quantified associations of modifiable, psychosocial risk factors to years of delayed onset of dementia.
Design: Two prospective cohorts (n=2860) with negative and positive psychosocial factors measured at baseline (depressive symptoms, neuroticism, cognitive activity).
Setting and participants: Religious Orders Study of older priests, nuns and brothers across the USA, initiated in 1994; Rush Memory and Aging Project, of older persons in Chicago area, initiated in 1997.
Outcome measure: We conducted annual neurological and neuropsychological assessments to identify AD (n=785 incident cases). We compared age at diagnosis of AD across psychosocial risk factor groups, controlling for confounders, using accelerated failure time models.
Results: We found strong relations of three or more depressive symptoms with age at AD diagnosis; estimated mean age at diagnosis was 86.9 years with significant symptoms versus 92.1 years with no symptoms (p=0.001). In addition, neuroticism was inversely related to age at AD diagnosis; estimated mean age at diagnosis was 88.8 years for the highest neuroticism tertile and 93.1 years in the lowest tertile (p<0.001). Participants with higher cognitive activity (such as reading books) had later AD diagnosis; estimated mean age at diagnosis was 89.2 years for the lowest cognitive activity group and 92.6 years for the highest activity group (p<0.001).
Conclusions: Higher depressive symptoms were associated with 5-year acceleration in AD; higher neuroticism with 4-year acceleration and higher cognitive activity with a 3.5-year delay. To translate findings, prior health services research in the USA indicates delaying dementia 5 years could add 3 years of life and reduce individual costs of care >$60 000. These results provide a rigorous, easily translatable metric for communicating and evaluating the potential public health impact of psychosocial and experiential interventions.
Keywords: dementia; epidemiology; public health.
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