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Depression in early life may later increase the risk of dementia

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, October 6, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Happy young adults may be somewhat protected from dementia, but the reverse may also be true: if you are a depressed young adult, your chances of dementia increase, new study suggest.

“Overall, we found that the greater the depressive symptoms, the lower the cognition and the faster the decline,” said researcher Willa Brenowitz.

“Older adults who were estimated to have moderate or high depressive symptoms in early adulthood experienced a decrease in cognition over ten years,” said Brenowitz of the University of California, San Francisco’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

The researchers developed a statistical model to predict the average arc of depression among 15,000 participants between 20 and 89 years of age. early adulthood, and 43% higher for those with symptoms of depression in later life.

“Several mechanisms explain how depression can increase the risk of dementia,” Brenowitz said in a university report. “Among them is that hyperactivity of the central stress response system increases the production of the stress hormones glucocorticoids, leading to damage to the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is essential for the formation, organization and storage of new memories.”

Other studies have linked depression to shrinkage of the hippocampus, and one study has shown that volume in women decreases faster, she said.

For this study, participants were screened for depression. Moderate or high depressive symptoms were found in 13% of young adults, 26% of middle-aged adults and 34% of older participants. More than 1200 participants were diagnosed with cognitive impairment.

With up to 20% of the population suffering from depression during their lifetime, it is important to recognize its role in cognitive or mental aging, says researcher dr. Kristine Yaffe, also from the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

“Future work will be needed to confirm these findings, but in the meantime we need to investigate and treat depression for many reasons,” Yaffe said.

The report was released on September 28 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease.

More information

The Alzheimer’s Association has more about dementia.

SOURCE: University of California, San Francisco, news release, September 28, 2021

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