Influence of negative life events and widowhood on risk for dementia

Lotte Gerritsen, Hui-Xin Wang, Chandra A. Reynolds, Laura Fratiglioni, Margaret Gatz, Nancy L. Pedersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective The aim of the current study was to examine the effect of negative life events and widowhood on the incidence of dementia. Methods Data were from four Swedish longitudinal cohort studies with a total of nearly 2,000 participants and 8–25 years of follow-up. Seven stressful events were examined for which data were available in all cohorts. Clinical dementia diagnoses were made through medical and psychological examinations. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate the association between life events and dementia, adjusting for lifestyle and cardiovascular risk factors. Results The experience of one stressful life event was not associated with dementia incidence, but two or more negative life events at baseline predicted higher risk for dementia (pooled HR: 2.00). This was most apparent for the incidence of vascular dementia (pooled HR: 3.60) but not for Alzheimer disease (pooled HR: 1.29). Moreover, persons who were widowed and had experienced one or more negative life events were found to have a threefold risk for dementia. Conclusion Widowhood augments the effect of negative life events on dementia incidence and negative life events specifically increase the risk for vascular dementia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)766-778
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer disease
  • dementia
  • old age
  • Stress
  • vascular dementia
  • aged
  • article
  • cardiovascular risk
  • cohort analysis
  • female
  • human
  • incidence
  • life event
  • lifestyle
  • longitudinal study
  • major clinical study
  • male
  • multiinfarct dementia
  • risk factor
  • sensitivity analysis
  • stress
  • widow


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