Depressed adults face higher risk of dementia as they get older

Young adults and those in middle age who deal with depression appear to be at higher risk for another serious problem later in life: dementia. A new study in JAMA Neurology found that people diagnosed with depression between the ages of 18 and 59 were 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia in their 60s and beyond. USA today. CNN reports that epidemiologist Dr. Holly Elser and her co-authors at the University of Pennsylvania analyzed data on more than 1.4 million Danish subjects from more than 40 years – 1977 to 2018. The study tracked people with – or without – a diagnosis of depression and the development of dementia symptoms, while variables such as education, income and physical ailments are taken into account.

“Our study simply showed the presence of a relationship, but did not explore mechanisms,” Elser said, meaning the team only found a link between the two disorders, not an explanation for why the association exists. “Depression may increase the risk of dementia through changes in the levels of key neurotransmitters, or depression may lead to changes in health behaviors that in turn increase the risk of dementia,” Elser said, adding that future studies may zero in on this. The study also found that the link appeared to be stronger in men than in women, per WebMDanother topic for future study.

Elser said more research is needed on how medication and therapy can help, as previous research showed that seniors who went to therapy saw a reduction in anxiety and depression, potentially reducing the possibility of a future slide into dementia. The researchers could not determine whether younger people who seek treatment can reduce their risk of dementia later. Still, “our paper further emphasizes the importance of managing depression clinically when it occurs because it can have echoes throughout the life course,” Elser said. (Read more dementia stories.)

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