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Long-term antidepressant use linked to higher dementia risk, says University of East Anglia

The research team studied the medical records of 40,770 patients aged over 65 diagnosed with dementia Credit: PA

Long term use of antidepressants and bladder medicines could increase the risk of dementia.

A new study by the University of East Anglia found that some classes of anticholinergic drugs, particularly those used to treat depression, Parkinson's and urinary incontinence, carry a higher risk than others.

Researchers said patients who take them for more than a year, were 30% more likely to develop dementia.

What we don't know for sure is whether the medication is the cause. It could be that these medications are being prescribed for very early symptoms indicating the onset of dementia.

But, because our research shows that the link goes back up to 15 or 20 years before someone is eventually diagnosed with dementia, it suggests that reverse causation, or confounding with early dementia symptoms, probably isn't the case.

– Dr George Savva, UEA
Anticholinergic antidepressants have been found to be linked with dementia Credit: PA
30%
Higher risk of dementia in people who take some anticholinergic medications

Researchers also said up to two million people in England are likely to be taking one of the anticholinergics identified by the study.

They said this does not prove that some anticholinergics cause dementia, but doctors should consider the long-term effects when prescribing them.

Dr Doug Brown, chief policy and research officer at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "Dementia is the UK's biggest killer, and with no new treatments in 15 years, prevention is key."

"As well as our ongoing quest to find new treatments, we urgently need to understand what raises the risk of dementia so we can find ways to prevent it."

Researchers of health sciences at the University of East Anglia led the study Credit: ITV News Anglia