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Research areas

EPINEP has unique access to large data sets that allow us to study the health of the elderly from different perspectives. Our data is longitudinal (collected over a long period of time) and contains information about individuals from middle age onwards. We also have data from the large sample of our oldest group in the Gothenburg population.

EPINEP studies dementia and other mental illnesses in older adults and its relation to factors such as physical illness, disability, generational differences, neurobiology and genetics.

Below, you can browse through a short summary of each research area.

Anxiety

We study prevalence, risk factors and consequences of simple phobias, social phobias, obsessive-compulsive syndrome and other anxiety disorders among the elderly.

Biomarkers

We study factors from blood samples and cerebrospinal fluid (i.e. the fluid in the brain) that act as indicators of specific conditions. These factors, known as biomarkers, can show whether a person has an increased risk of developing a psychiatric disorder. Specifically, we study biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease (e.g. the proteins “tau” and “amyloid beta”). We also study how hormones (e.g. sex hormones and the hormone leptin - a measure of fatty tissues) are linked to the structure of the brain in the elderly.

Our research has shown that biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease can predict impaired cognitive function in elderly women.

Dementia

We study the frequency of dementia in the elderly population, primarily focusing on Alzheimer’s Disease and vascular dementia. Our research includes the interactions between genetic and other risk factors for developing dementia. We also study the consequences and early symptoms of dementia, as well as the relationships between dementia and other psychiatric disorders in the elderly.

Our research has shown that high blood pressure increased the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease, and that vascular disease is a common cause of dementia. Among "the oldest old” (i.e. age 90 and above) we have shown that dementia is strongly related to increased mortality.

Depression

We study depression among the elderly in the population. Factors studied include prevalence, risk factors and the consequences and progression of depression. We also study the association between depression and other psychiatric disorders in the elderly.

Our research has shown that depression among the elderly increases with age, and is linked to impaired cognitive function. We have shown that depression is a risk factor for stroke in 85-year-olds, and that there is a high risk of depression after a stroke. Our research has also shown that depression is common among the elderly who commit suicide.

Genetics

We study the genetic factors that may be relevant to health / illness in the elderly, as well as the genes involved in the relation between somatic, mental and cognitive health in these individuals.

Nutrition

We study the intake of energy and nutrients, food choices and meal order and body measurements and how these changes over time in different birth cohorts. Previous studies show that the healthy elderly have good eating habits in relation to recommendations, and that the intake of nutrients has increased over time. This means that the eating habits gradually improved from the first age 70 cohort examined in 1971/72 compared to later examined cohorts. We aim for the present investigation to relate nutrient intake and body composition to physical, social, mental and cognitive health.

Overweight and obesity

We study the association between overweight/obesity, poor mental health and the aging brain.

Our research has shown that overweight increases the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. We have also shown that overweight may affect the structure of the brain during aging.

Personality

We study how personality affects physical and mental health, and whether the personality changes over time.

We have studied personality in a representative sample of 70-year-olds, and the risk of developing depression for the first time at an advanced age (up to 85 years old). We found that the personality factor “neuroticism” was linked to an increased risk of clinically significant depression at an advanced age.

Psychoses

We study the frequency of psychoses (e.g. schizophrenia, hallucinations, delusions) among the elderly.

Our research has shown that hallucinations and delusions are more common in the elderly than previously thought.

Sahlgrenska suicide studies

We study the association between suicide and poor mental health. Factors studied include suicide and suicide attempts, as well as the effect of sleep disorders and alcohol/drugs on suicide. We also study the frequency of suicidal thoughts in the population.

Our research has shown that the association between depression and suicide is much stronger in the elderly than in the younger population. We have also shown that nightmares increase the risk of suicide in people aged 18-68 years. Feeling tired of life is rare in 85-year-olds who are free of psychiatric disorders, but it is linked to increased mortality.

Stress & physical activity

We study how stress and physical activity are linked to psychiatric disorders in the elderly.

Stroke & other vascular diseases

We study the frequency of stroke in the elderly and the association with dementia and other psychiatric disorders. Stroke is also studied in "the oldest old” (i.e. > 90 years old).

Our research has shown that stroke is common among the elderly, especially in women, and is linked to high blood pressure in elderly above 85 years old. Stroke increases the risk of dementia significantly. We have also found that depression increases the risk of stroke.

The aging brain & cognition

As we age, our brain changes. These changes are not always harmful, but can be simply a natural effect of aging. However, some changes in the brain can be linked to psychiatric disorders. We study changes in the brain with computed tomography (CT) and analyze how the changes are linked to psychiatric disorders in the elderly. We also study how cognitive functions (e.g. memory, orientation, language) are related to mental health and changes in the brain.

Our research has shown that changes in the brain, identified using CT, are common among the elderly. Not all changes are associated with disease, but certain changes increase the risk of dementia. We have also shown that impaired memory function per se is not a sign of dementia. Rather, reduced capacity of several cognitive functions is required for the prediction of dementia in 85-year-olds.

Our research has also demonstrated a correlation between psychotic symptoms and impaired cognitive ability among the elderly.

Sex life of the elderly

We study how the sex life of 70-year-olds has changed since the 1970s.

The research has shown that an increasing number of elderly have sex and are satisfied with their sex lives. Even 85-year-olds are often sexually active.

Page Manager: Tina Jacobsson|Last update: 11/10/2014
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