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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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October 2020 (Vol. 5 Issue 7)

The 27 stressful events that can age your brain, and cause dementia
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

The 27 stressful events that can age your brain, and cause dementia image

There are 27 stressful events that can age our brain by up to four years, and increase the risk of dementia, researchers have found.

Any one of the events—which include being fired from your job or your partner having an affair—could potentially have a damaging effect years later, say researchers from the University of Wisconsin, although it's more likely to be cumulative as people experience several of the events in their lives.

Children and teenagers can have their own stressful events, such as being expelled from school or having drug-abusing parents, that can raise their risk of dementia when they're older.

To assess the mental damage that stressful experiences can have on us, the researchers tested 1,320 people aged in their 50s and 60s on their mental abilities, and then asked them about stresses that had happened in their lives.

They discovered a strong connection between poor cognition and lifetime stress, with each stressful event causing the brain to age around four years. The 27 stressful events they identified are:

1. Repeating a year at school

2. Being sent away from home for doing something wrong

3. Father or mother were unemployed

4. One or both parents suffered an alcohol problem

5. One or both parents abused drugs

6. Dropping out of school

7. Expelled from school

8. Failed school or university

9. Fired from a job

10. Unemployed for a long period

11. Death of a parent when young

12. Parents divorced

13. Spouse or partner had an affair

14. Major difficulties with in-laws

15. Death of a sibling

16. Death of a child

17. Your child suffers life-threatening illness or accident

18. Lost the family home from flood or fire

19. Physically assaulted

20. Sexually assaulted

21. Suffering serious legal difficulties

22. Imprisoned

23. Declared bankrupt

24. Suffered financial loss or loss of property

25. Went on welfare

26. Joined the armed forces

27. Experienced active combat.


(Source: Proceedings of the 2017 Alzheimer's Association International Conference, 16 July, 2017 London)

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