Worldwide recognition for MSc research on PTSD and dementia risk

13 October 2020

MSc Alumni, Mia Maria Günak has received attention for her research which found that people who have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are up to twice as likely to develop dementia later in life.

Photo of Mia Maria Gunak

MSc Clinical Mental Health Science alumni, Mia Maria Günak, has received worldwide media attention for her research on PTSD and dementia risk, which formed part of her MSc dissertation in Dr Vasiliki Orgeta’s lab in the Division of Psychiatry.

For the study, the researchers analysed findings from 13 studies conducted on four continents, including data from a total of 1,693,678 people, investigating whether a PTSD diagnosis was associated with increased risk of dementia up to 17 years later.

By pooling data from eight of the studies, the researchers found that people with PTSD faced a 61% higher risk of dementia. Analysing data from two studies that used different methods, they found that PTSD was associated with double the odds of developing dementia.*

Dementia risk among people who have had PTSD was higher in the general population compared to veterans. In the general population people with a PTSD diagnosis were more than twice as likely to develop dementia.

The research, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, is the first meta-analysis of global evidence on PTSD and dementia risk.

The research has been picked up by 135 news outlets world-wide including a TV appearance for Mia, who was interviewed on Canada TV talking about her research.

When asked about her time on the Masters degree at UCL, Mia said,

The programme Clinical Mental Health Sciences at UCL provided me with the opportunity to greatly extend my understanding of mental health by taking both the scientist’s as well as the practitioner’s perspective into account. Studying at UCL meant being taught by and working under the supervision of globally leading experts, taking an interdisciplinary approach, in an international cohort of students and a vibrant city. Students can choose from a wide range of optional modules that suit their interests. In that way, I was able to learn so much new about dementia and therefore, decided to write my MSc thesis about it combined with my interest in post-traumatic stress disorder, and investigated the association between the two. Studying at UCL was an incredible and professionally and personally challenging experience; it opened several doors for me that I did not know existed.