Severe depression has been linked to dementia in seniors, with both major depression and worsening condition increasing a person’s risk of dementia. The study involved nearly 2,500 seniors in their 70s without any signs of dementia. Participants were monitored for five years for depression symptoms, and screened for six years for signs of dementia.
Twenty-one percent of the participants with serious or growing symptoms of depression developed dementia, compared to 12 percent who had consistently mild symptoms of depression.
Study author Allison Kaup said, “Our results raise the possibility that older adults’ cognitive [mental] health could be improved with interventions to reduce depressive symptoms, such as psychotherapy or other behavioral interventions, or medications. This is an important topic for future treatment studies to investigate.”
Kaup suggests that depression in seniors may be an early sign of pending dementia. However, “we found an almost twofold [dementia] increase among those with high and increasing symptoms. This suggests that a particular pattern of depressive symptoms may be an independent risk factor,” Kaup added.
Kaup suggests that seniors should be screened for depression as there is “a wealth of research showing that a variety of health and lifestyle factors influence cognitive health, such as physical activity and maintaining good cardiovascular health. Likewise, it appears that emotional health is important for cognitive health in aging.”