Anti-anxiety drugs increase risk of dementia

Anti-anxiety medication is being prescribed indiscriminately as a treatment for anxiety as well as other conditions such as insomnia which could be putting individuals at risk of suffering from dementia in the long term.

According to new research conducted at the University of Bordeaux, France, people over the age of 65 who are prescribed benzodiazepines, the most common type of anti-anxiety medication, are doubling their chances of being diagnosed with dementia within fifteen years.

Anxiety is reported to be common in older people affecting as many as one in five elderly individuals. Fear of not being able to care for themselves, illness and the death of loved ones have all been found to cause anxiety.

The researchers followed the health and lifestyle of 1063 people with an average age of 78 for 20 years. At the beginning of the study none of the participants had prescriptions of anti-anxiety medication and none had been diagnosed as suffering from dementia. The study reported that individuals who started taking benzodiazepines in the first few years of the study commencing were more likely to subsequently be diagnosed with a type of dementia.

Additionally, the study reported that older adults were often taking the drug for a longer period of time than is recommended by manufacturers.

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce loneliness in older adults and promote general health and wellbeing. It could be that more time should be taken to help elderly individuals overcome their anxiety with non-toxic methods, which could also have the side effect of improving their quality of life.

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