Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are chronic health conditions that strongly affect our psychosocial environment. Then again, more and more studies show that psychosocial factors throughout the life-course are associated with the risk for developing dementia. The research group conducts studies to investigate such effects. The aim of the research conducted in this group is to identify psychosocial determinants and risk factors in the population that either increase or decrease the risk for developing dementia, the prevalence rate, and the disease burden. In this way, our research findings are an important foundation for the development of new public policies that aim at reducing the numbers of people with dementia in the society.
Findings from studies all over the world suggest that multiple risk factors throughout the life-course might influence the risk for developing dementia. However, only a limited number of factors have been researched so far. Psychosocial determinants have recently gained attention from the international health research community. As the role of psychosocial factors in the development of dementia has not yet been studied in depth, it is important to advance research efforts in this important field. We cannot study biology in isolation if we want to understand dementia risk. The biological processes that cause dementia are happening within the everyday environment that the person is living in and that is a part of his or her identity. Accordingly, the research group investigates psychosocial determinants of dementia in order to be able to identify new pathways of disease progression and causality.
Research studies of the group focus, for example, on distinct components of the occupational and social environment. We determine differential effects of these components and identify those that have the greatest impact. Further, we investigate interactions between psychosocial determinants (e.g., leisure activities) and other risk factors, such as mental health and genetic predisposition. We also look at country specific aspects and study possible associations with neurobiological mechanisms in collaboration with other research teams. By differentiating individual components of psychosocial factors, either in a detailed analysis of the operationalization or in interaction with other factors, we can identify those with the strongest impact against dementia. This information helps us then to identify high-risk constellations (that is combinations of psychosocial determinants and genetic or health-related aspects). In this way, we can identify people at high risk for developing dementia. To gain a better understanding of all of these associations, we also conduct studies and analyses on memory in old age, the preclinical phase of cognitive decline as well as distinct dementia symptoms.