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Depression and dementia may be linked

September 5, 2012

Depression and dementia are two of the biggest threats to healthy aging, and it turns out the two conditions might be more closely tied than one might think. Researchers found that depression in middle age and senior adults may be associated with a higher risk of developing dementia later on.

The research focused on more than 13,300 adults who were enrolled in a study between 1963 and 1974. After looking at which participants exhibited depressive symptoms, researchers noted that adults who were depressed in midlife were about 20 percent more likely to develop dementia. The results were even more pronounced for older adults, who had a 70 percent greater chance at developing dementia if they were depressed. The number jumped to 80 percent when it came to participants who had depression symptoms in both mid and late life.

The results could impact a large number of older adults. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 5 million seniors have subsyndromal depression, which falls just below the clinical diagnosis.

The study also puts some pressure on family members or caregivers to be on the lookout for early signs of depression. Changes in sleep patterns, appetite and a withdrawal from normal activities could all be a signal something is amiss.