Military-related risk factors in female veterans and risk of dementia



To determine whether diagnoses of traumatic brain injury (TBI), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression, alone or in combination, increase dementia risk among older female veterans.


This cohort study included data from 109,140 female veterans ≥55 years of age receiving care from Veterans Health Administration medical centers in the United States between October 2004 and September 2015 with at least 1 follow-up visit. TBI, PTSD, depression, and medical conditions at study baseline and incident dementia were determined according to ICD-9-CM codes. Fine-Gray proportional hazards models were used to determine the association between military-related risk factors and dementia diagnosis, accounting for the competing risk of death.


During follow-up (mean 4.0 years, SD 2.3), 4% of female veterans (n = 4,125) developed dementia. After adjustment for demographics and medical conditions, women with TBI, PTSD, and depression had a significant increase in risk of developing dementiacompared to women without these diagnoses (TBI-adjusted subdistribution hazard ratio [adjusted sHR] 1.49, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.01-2.20; PTSD adjusted sHR 1.78, 95% CI 1.34-2.36; and depression-adjusted sHR 1.67, 95% CI 1.55-1.80), while women with >1 diagnosis had the highest risk for dementia (adjusted sHR 2.15, 95% CI 1.84-2.51).


We found that women with military-related risk factors had an ≈50% to 80% increase in developing dementia relative to women without these diagnoses, while female veterans with multiple risk factors had a >2-fold risk of developing dementia. These findings highlight the need for increased screening of TBI, PTSD, and depression in older women, especially female veterans.