The MODIFY Project
Background to the research
The MODIFY project is supported by the Alzheimer’s Society and aims to investigate whether psychological therapy can contribute to dementia prevention.
The 2017 Lancet commission on dementia prevention, care and cure found that approximately 35% of cases of dementia may result from risk factors that it is possible to modify. In particular, anxiety and depression have been identified as important risks because people who suffer from these in later life are more likely to subsequently be diagnosed with dementia. These conditions are common in people over 65, with 17.2% suffering from anxiety and 13.7% suffering from depression.
However, the most important clinical question of whether successfully treating anxiety or depression contributes to dementia prevention is unanswered. Additionally, we know that loneliness, social isolation, lack of physical activity and alcohol use are risk factors for dementia and that they may be improved through psychological therapies, but again we don’t know if improving them reduces dementia risk. It is these critical practical questions that the current project is the first to address.
Aims of the MODIFY Project
The MODIFY Project is made up of three aims:
To create a ‘big data resource’ linking NHS psychological
therapy treatment data to electronic medical records of dementia diagnosis.
To use this data to test
whether successfully treating anxiety and depression is associated with reduced risk of future dementia.
To test the feasibility of measuring change over therapy in other dementia risk factors which are
not routinely measured in psychological therapy.
Why is this research important?
Our planned programme has the potential to deliver new knowledge about the relationship between common mental health problems and dementia risk, and whether better treatment outcomes reduce that risk. Our work will deliver the capacity to refine treatment strategies based on long-term as well as shorter-term outcomes.
Clinical relevance is enhanced by our use of linked data from existing clinical services as recommended in the recent Alzheimer’s Society Research Roadmap. This research will be of great use in better targeting future psychological interventions aimed at dementia prevention.