Regular Research Article| Volume 28, ISSUE 1, P48-60, January 2020

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The Interplay Between Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Dementia: A Systematic Review

Published:August 09, 2019DOI:


      • We examined the current evidence for a bidirectional relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder and dementia, where 1) post-traumatic stress disorder is a risk factor for the development of dementia and 2) onset of dementia is a risk factor for the delayed emergence of post-traumatic stress disorder manifestations.
      • Our systematic review identified 25 articles pertaining to both dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder in mid-life was reported to increase the risk for late-life dementia of all types while late-onset Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia were reported to increase the risk for the delayed emergence, the re-emergence, or the worsening of post-traumatic stress disorder.
      • More rigorous longitudinal studies that include neuroimaging and biomarkers are needed to corroborate the association between the two conditions as well as to better understand the underlying pathological mechanisms.



      Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been reported to increase the risk for dementia in veterans and civilians. Conversely, case reports have described the delayed onset of PTSD in individuals developing dementia, suggesting a complex relationship between these two conditions.


      To critically review studies investigating the association between PTSD and dementia and to assess the evidence for a bidirectional relationship between the two conditions.


      A systematic review of Web of Science Core databases was carried out from inception of databases up to November 2018 to identify observational studies pertaining to both PTSD and dementia. Populations enrolled, stressors and neuropathologies, and main outcomes of studies were extracted, in addition to age at trauma and at onset of PTSD and dementia. The different temporal relationships between trauma and onset of the conditions were characterized.


      Twenty-five articles were included in the review; 14 articles assessed the association of PTSD with subsequent dementia and 11 articles reported the delayed onset of PTSD with the onset of dementia. Most reported traumas occurred in early-life (<40 years) and were related to war combat experiences. PTSD in mid-life (between 40 and 60 years of age) was associated with an increased risk of late-onset dementia. Numerous case series reported the delayed onset of PTSD in Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.


      Current evidence suggests that PTSD and dementia have a bidirectional relationship: PTSD increases the risk for late-onset dementia and dementia increases the risk for delayed-onset PTSD in those who experienced a significant trauma earlier in life.

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