Depression linked to dementia

Dr. Vonetta Dotson

An episode of depression is associated with a 14 percent increased risk of developing dementia, according to a new University of Florida study. The findings were published in the July 6 issue of Neurology.

“A lot of researchers have shown that a history of depression increases your risk for dementia. I became intrigued by the possibility that having multiple episodes of depression might increase your risk even greater,” said lead researcher Vonetta Dotson, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Health Professions’ department of clinical and health psychology.

For the study Dotson and colleagues analyzed data collected from more than 1,200 older adults participating in the National Institute on Aging’s Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Participants completed a general depression survey at one to two-year intervals. Of the 1,239 participants, 142 developed dementia and 88 developed mild cognitive impairment.

Each episode of elevated depressive symptoms was associated with a 14 percent increased risk of developing dementia. Two or more depressive episodes nearly doubled the risk.

Experts aren’t sure why depression and dementia are linked, but one theory is that depression can damage the brain’s hippocampus, an important area for memory, Dotson said.

“I’m hoping this research will lead to more recognition of the importance of treating depression in older adults,” Dotson said. “This is one way we can actually intervene and potentially reduce the risk of dementia.”

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