Study Shows That Depressive Symptoms as a Younger Adult Can Lead to Faster Cognitive Decline in Old Age

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Researchers from UC San Francisco have released a study titled Depressive Symptoms Imputed Across the Life Course Are Associated with Cognitive Impairment and Cognitive Decline. The study shows that younger adults with poor mental health have an increased risk of cognitive issues. It shows that having depression when younger can increase the risk of dementia in old age.

According to Dr. Will Brenowitz, many mechanisms lead to the correlation between dementia and depression. One such mechanism is the overproduction of glucocorticoids caused by the hyperactivity in the central stress response system damaging the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain that plays a role in making memories.

How researchers conducted the study

Researchers were able to approximate depressive symptoms in various life stages through assessing data from younger and older volunteers and coming up with average trajectories. As with other age-related trends, depressive symptoms trajectories seemed to fit a U-shaped course.

The researchers screened volunteers with a CESD-10 questionnaire. The responses showed about 34% of the older adults had moderate to high depressive symptoms. The result was the same for 13% young adults and 26% midlife adults. Furthermore, older adults who have more depressive symptoms in their younger lives experienced a higher cognitive decline when they grew older. They also had a high drop in cognition within ten years of reporting their symptoms.

Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a senior study author, points out that more studies are needed to confirm the effect of depression on cognitive decline. Until then, doctors should continue to focus on the diagnosis and treatment of depression.

Study shows that women are more likely to report depressive symptoms

In an unrelated study, researchers found that older men were less likely to report depressive symptoms than older women. The researchers involved in the study evaluated about 50,000 people between the ages of 45 and 85. They found that women in all age groups were more likely to report their symptoms. These findings were more pronounced when the volunteers were in their 80s.

The study shows the importance of maintaining spiritual, social, physical, and mental activity in older adults to avoid depression.

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