Could Negative Thoughts Affect Your Risk of Dementia?

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerFebruary 1, 2016

Two studies from Yale University linked negative thoughts about aging and the elderly to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The study lasted over 25 years and evaluated the attitudes and brain health of 158 adults.

Learn more about the study, its outcomes and potential impact on future research.

Studies Find Link Between Negative Thoughts and Increased Risk of Dementia

Two recent studies from Yale University found a strong correlation between negative feelings about aging and the elderly and an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.

The first study, published in the journal Psychology and Aging, used data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging to determine how their 158 participants viewed the aging process. The participants were all healthy and were asked by researchers how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements about aging. Participants answered survey questions while in their 40s and then again 25 years later and began annual MRIs for up to 10 years.

Researchers found that those participants who had a negative view of aging displayed a “significantly steeper decline” in the volume of their hippocampus, a hallmark characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, than more positive thinking peers.

The second study, also conducted by Yale University, examined the brain autopsies of people and found that those who had displayed negative feelings about aging in the study had more plaques and tangles in their brain, another characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.

Linking Social Stereotypes to Risk of Dementia and Related Diseases

These studies are among the first to examine social stereotypes to disease and both found that those who had negative views of aging and elderly people and a greater risk of developing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Becca Levy, lead researcher from the Yale School of Public Health believes the link is stress-related:

“We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about aging that individuals sometimes internalize from society that can result in pathological brain changes.”

While findings are preliminary, Levy is optimistic about the impact the studies could have on future research saying, “Although the findings are concerning, it is encouraging to realize that these negative beliefs about aging can be mitigated and positive beliefs about aging can be reinforced, so that the adverse impact is not inevitable.”

Have you seen a link between a loved one’s negative views on aging and poor brain health? Share your story with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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