Systemic and Local Corticosteroid Use Is Associated with Reduced Executive Cognition, and Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Mesut Savas, Christiaan H. Vinkers, Judith G.M. Rosmalen, Catharina A. Hartman, Vincent L. Wester, Erica L.T. Van Den Akker, Anand M. Iyer, Bruce S. McEwen, Elisabeth F.C. Van Rossum

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31 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Use of local corticosteroids, especially the inhaled types, has increasingly been associated with systemic uptake and consequent adverse effects. In this study, we assessed the associations between the use of different corticosteroid types with cognitive and neuropsychiatric adverse effects related to high glucocorticoid exposure. Methods: In 83,592 adults (mean age 44 years, 59% women) of the general population (Lifelines Cohort Study), we analyzed the relationship between corticosteroid use with executive cognitive functioning (Ruff Figural Fluency Test), and presence of mood and anxiety disorders (Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview survey). We performed additional exploration for effects of physical quality of life (QoL; RAND-36), and inflammation (high-sensitive C-reactive protein [CRP]). Results: Cognitive scores were lower among corticosteroid users, in particular of systemic and inhaled types, when compared to nonusers. Users of inhaled types showed lower cognitive scores irrespective of physical QoL, psychiatric disorders, and high-sensitive CRP. Overall corticosteroid use was also associated with higher likelihood for mood and anxiety disorders. Users of inhaled corticosteroids were more likely to have mood disorders (OR 1.40 [95% CI 1.19-1.65], p < 0.001) and anxiety disorders (OR 1.19 [95% CI 1.06-1.33], p = 0.002). These findings were independent of physical QoL. A higher likelihood for mood disorders was also found for systemic users whereas nasal and dermal corticosteroid users were more likely to have anxiety disorders. Conclusions: Commonly used local corticosteroids, in particular inhaled types, and systemic corticosteroids are associated with reduced executive cognitive functioning and a higher likelihood of mood and anxiety disorders in the general adult population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-291
Number of pages10
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Anxiety disorders
  • Brain
  • Cognition
  • Corticosteroids
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Mood disorders

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