Research from Saint Louis University School of Medicine finds that among patients 65 and older, a diagnosis of anxiety was significantly associated with an increased risk of dementia diagnosis, and benzodiazepine exposure was associated with a 28% increased risk of dementia. However, when benzodiazepines were prescribed to patients with an anxiety disorder, there was no significant association between these medications and incident dementia.
The study, “Anxiety Disorders, Benzodiazepine Prescription and Incident Dementia,” was published online July 28 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The study’s authors found while there is an association between anxiety and dementia, and an association between benzodiazepines and dementia, there is no association between these medications and dementia when prescribed to persons with an anxiety disorder.
It is unknown whether treating late-life anxiety disorders with benzodiazepines exposes patients to additional risks of dementia. Anxiety in older adults can be linked with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, social withdrawal, physical inactivity, sleep disturbance, smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption and chronic disease burden.