Jan 4, 2013

Are Dementia and Depression Linked?

Older people with depression may be more likely to experience mild mental impairment or dementia than their peers.

Alzheimer's Reading Room

Are Dementia and Depression Linked?
This study and previous studies linking depression and dementia always catch my attention.

At least two years before I moved to Delray Beach to take care of Dotty, I noticed that she was becoming increasingly negative. If I knew then what I know now I would have gotten her checked for depression.

As it turned out years later, I discussed this issue with our doctor. He suggested I look into a psychological consult. I did but at the time I could not find anyone that was fully versed in depression and dementia. I am not saying the person didn't exist, but that I could not identify an appropriate doctor.

I would suggest sharing this article and information with friends or colleagues that have elderly parents or grand parents. They in turn might decide to share this with their doctor if they are seeing changes in behavior, particularly negativity.

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Dementia, Late-Life Depression May Be Linked
Mild mental impairment also prevalent in those with the mood disorder, study says.

Older people with depression may be more likely to experience mild mental impairment or dementia than their peers, Dutch researchers report.

In a study of nearly 2,200 Medicare recipients aged 65 and older, researchers led by Dr. Edo Richard of the University of Amsterdam examined the association between late-life depression and dementia and thinking/memory difficulties known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

The study, published online in JAMA Neurology, found that people with depression were 40 percent more likely to have mild mental impairment and more than twice as likely to have full-blown dementia. Although depression also was linked to greater risk for incident dementia, it was not associated with incident problems with thinking and memory.

The study authors said those with both mild cognitive impairment and depression were at increased risk for developing dementia, particularly vascular dementia. They noted, however, that these patients were not at greater risk for Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia.

"Our finding ... suggests that depression develops with the transition from normal cognition to dementia," the authors wrote in a journal news release.

Depression affects between 3 percent and 63 percent of people with mild cognitive impairment. Previous studies have found that those with a history of depression are at greater risk for dementia. The researchers added that there is no clear explanation for the link between late-life depression and cognitive impairment, and their study does not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

Study conclusion: The association of depression with prevalent MCI and with progression from MCI to dementia, but not with incident MCI, suggests that depression accompanies cognitive impairment but does not precede it.


More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health provides more information on depression.

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room