Antidepressants severely increases dementia risk when you are over 60

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More than 1 in 10 will become demented after 60 when exposed to antidepressants, versus less than 3 in 100. A strong warning to the medical world about loosely prescribing antidepressant meds. 

Among people over the age of 60, antidepressant exposure increases the risk of dementia by 3.43 by comparison peers unexposed to this medication. This finding emerged from an international study led by researchers from the University of Haifa.

“The results of the study indicate that antidepressant exposure among older people is associated with an increased incidence of dementia. Clinicians, caregivers, and patients may wish to consider this possible negative consequence of antidepressants among persons over 60”, noted Prof. Stephen Levine of the University of Haifa, the head of the research team.

Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by impairment and deterioration in cognition and daily activities. The disease affects 5-6% of people over the age of 60. Research indicates that the number of cases of dementia is expected to rise steeply, doubling by 2040. At present there is no cure for dementia, so it is vital to identify factors modify the incidence of the disease.

In addition, other studies estimate that 1.8% of the population suffers from depression in old age, recent years have witnessed a rise in the use of antidepressant medication among the elderly. Antidepressants are not only prescribed for depressive disorder but also for other disorders, such as insomnia, anxiety, pain etc.

The latest study, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, was undertaken by Prof. Levine of the University of Haifa, Dr. Arad Kodesh of Meuchedet HMO, Dr. Anat Rotstein of the University of Haifa, and an international team of researchers from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, Karolinska Institute and Jönköping University in Sweden, and the Nicosia Medical School in Cyprus.

The study objective was to test the hypothesis that antidepressant medication among people aged 60 and above is associated with the risk of dementia. Dementia risk also increases if you are exposed to pesticides

The study population comprised 71,515 participants over the age of 60 who did not have a diagnosis of dementia during the period 2002-2012. This group was examined from a prospective historical perspective to identify whether incident dementia developed in the period 2013-2017.

The results show that of the 3,688 participants exposed to antidepressant medication 407 (11%) developed dementia, while out of the 67,827 participants not exposed to antidepressants 1,768 (2.6%) developed dementia. Using advanced statistics it emerged that exposure to antidepressants was significantly associated with a 3.43 increased risk of dementia.

The antidepressant-dementia association remained statistically significant in 24 additional analyses the authors undertook examining: subsamples with plausible differential dementia risks (e.g., without depression!), and various aspects of antidepressant medication.

“Patients, caregivers, family members and clinicians may wish to consider this potentially consequence of antidepressants in order to weigh up the costs and benefits of treatment in old age. Furthermore, further research is warranted into the association between medication and dementia risk to improve treatment decisions and outcomes.” Prof. Levine concluded.

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