Late-life depression linked to dementia

old man

Late-life depression has been linked to an increased risk for all-cause dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and, most predominantly, vascular dementia.

Researchers have previously acknowledged an association between depression and Alzheimer’s disease, but this is the first meta-analysis that specifically addresses the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia in mature adults with depression.

This is also the first study to show that late-life depression increases the risk of vascular dementia and that the risk of vascular dementia is greater than the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Better prediction and prevention possible

“An understanding of how late-life depression increases the risk of dementia could lead to better prediction and prevention mechanisms,” explained Meryl Butters, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “Early diagnosis and prevention of depression could have a major dual public health impact as they could also potentially prevent or delay cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.”

Millions affected by late-life depression

Late-life depression is one of the more common psychiatric illnesses in older adults. About 15 percent of adults over 65 experience it.

Depression in late-life may be a relapse, or it can be triggered by chronic illness associated with age or grief, placement in a nursing home, or hospitalization. Usually patients will also experience poorer general health and higher occurrences of cardiovascular disease.

Impact of prevention needs to be studied next

“Fortunately, we already know that depression can be prevented and treated,” added Butters. “Now that we know the risks of dementia, we need to conduct clinical trials to investigate the impact of preventing depression on risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, British Journal of Psychiatry

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