Jealousy May Lead to Dementia

The green eyed monster might not just destroy your relationship—it might destroy your mental health, too, according to experts.

Recently, a study that took 40 years to complete was published. It revealed that women who report being moody or anxious in middle age have a higher chance of being diagnosed with neurodegenerative issues in their golden years.

According to Lena Johannsson, PhD and lead author of the study, ‘Most Alzheimer’s research has been devoted to factors such as education, heart and blood risk factors, head trauma, family history and genetics. Personality may influence the individual’s risk for dementia through its effect on behavior, lifestyle or reactions to stress.’

Dr. Johannsson hails from Sweden’s University of Gothenburg and has helped in the tracking of 800 women who averaged an age of 46 when the study began. It took 38 years for the full results to come in, and each participant filled out a series of personality tests. The tests were designed to gauge whether they were more introverted or extroverted, their neuroses levels and how well they performed with memory tests.

The goal was to see how their personality, stress reactors and lifestyles may or may not contribute to the development of dementia.

Good Mental Health Starts Early

Currently, there is no cure for dementia like Alzheimer’s, although there have been studies which suggest ways to prevent it. Most often, green tea is touted as a potential deterrent of dementia while stress management is of course boasted as beneficial all around. In this particular study, the women were asked about their fears, nervousness and sleep habits. They responded to how they deal with stress, tensions and how often they’re irritable. Each woman ranked their feelings on a simple zero to five scale.

After four decades, it was revealed that the women who got the highest neuroticism scores doubled their odds of developing dementia. Of course, much more research needs to be done to determine why exactly this is, but there’s great news: Learning to better handle your anxiety and neuroses can potentially lower your risk of developing dementia. Plus, even if it doesn’t, there are several other benefits to better stress management.

Tips for Getting Started

Every person is going to respond differently to stress management tactics. The trick is finding one that works best for you. Also keep in mind that it’s not only women who can benefit—even though females are more often diagnosed with dementia, it’s also prevalent in men. One of the best moves you can make is finding a reputable mental health therapist you’re comfortable with and using them as a sounding board. It’s one of the best ways to manage stress and get insight on new tactics to try.

There’s also meditation, yoga, walks outdoors, getting a pet and writing down your feelings without necessarily sharing them. By exploring options to relieve anxiety and stress, you can hone in on what you enjoy most and what seems to strike the right chord. There’s no one size fits all answer, and right now is the perfect time to start experimenting.

Jason writes for MBA Medical, who offers practice management services for neurologists.