Stressful life experience can 'age your brain', research suggests

GETTYDivorces redundancies bereavements and other common traumas could have a destructive impact

GETTYDivorces redundancies bereavements and other common traumas could have a destructive impact

The team examined data for 1,320 people, who reported stressful experiences over their lifetime and underwent tests in areas such as thinking and memory. The average age of the subjects was 58, and it included 1,232 white Americans and 82 African Americans.

Stressful life experiences can age the brain by several years, new research suggests.

The new research, presented at a conference in London on Sunday, looks at how stress and dementia are related, with the results helping account for higher incidents of such degenerative diseases among African Americans in the United States, who are nearly twice as likely to suffer from the disease over the age of 65.

The tests examined several areas including four memory scores - immediate memory; verbal learning and memory; visual learning and memory; and story recall.

Dr Maria Carrillo, chief science officer for the Alzheimer's Association, said: "The stressful events that the researchers were focusing on were a large variety. the death of a parent, abuse, loss of a job, loss of a home. poverty, living in a disadvantaged neighbourhood, divorce".

A stressful life experience can be losing a job, death of a child, divorce, or growing up with a parent who abused drugs or alcohol.

"We're starting to understand how early life stress and early life deprivation can increase your risk of a number of health outcomes in late life", she says.

The team found that African Americans experienced 60 per cent more stressful events than white people during their lifetimes. But studies looking at both white and African-American people with those conditions still showed racial disparities, indicating there was something missing from the puzzle.

The Alzheimer's Association International Conference takes place each year to gather top researchers and doctors from around the world to share their latest research, theories, and discoveries in hopes of finding a cure or treatment.

Dr Doug Brown, the director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "We know that prolonged stress can have an impact on our health, so it's no surprise that this study indicates stressful life events may also affect our memory and thinking abilities later in life".

"Studying the role of stress is complex".

He said it was important to establish the role that stress and stressful life events play, adding: "To unravel this, more research is needed over a longer time scale".

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