The study involved more than 3,400 older adults who were not diagnosed with dementia before the study began. Researchers analyzed participant medication usage during the decade before the study by referencing pharmacy data. Throughout an approximately 7-year follow-up period, a little over 23% of participants developed dementia. Additionally, the research showed that over 78% of participants had a record of at least one anticholinergic drug prescription in the decade preceding the study; the most common of which were antidepressants, bladder medications, and antihistamines. Anticholinergic medication use was more commonly seen amongst women, those with greater depressive symptoms, and individuals with comorbidities compared to people who did not use anticholinergics.
The study showed that those who took anticholinergic drugs stood at an increased risk for all-cause dementia, particularly individuals who took these medications for three years or longer. While cognitive impairment has been a noted side effect of anticholinergic drug usage, it is said to resolve itself once a patient stops taking the medication. However, some experts believe that anticholinergics present a greater risk for such cognitive impairment persisting even after a patient ceases taking the drug. The researchers emphasized the importance of medical professionals recognizing this potential connection and looking into other medications for older adults if appropriate.