Early adulthood depression increases dementia risk, study finds

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Researchers stress importance of depression treatment and screening, especially in early adulthood

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According to a new study Building on Dementia Research, early adulthood depression was associated with cognitive impairment and rapid cognitive decline.

Prior studies have linked depression with an increased dementia risk, although the findings were controversial because late-life depression may be a symptom of dementia, say study authors affiliated with the University of California San Francisco, who studied the consequences in adult life span. Presented.

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Findings published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease The statistical estimates on Tuesday included between 15,000 participants aged 20-89 in three age groups: young adulthood, mid-life and older adults, per UCSF. release Posted Tuesday. The researchers found that 6,000 older participants with high depressive symptoms in early adulthood had a 73% increased likelihood of cognitive impairment, and a 43% increased likelihood for those with depression in late life.

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“Our findings highlight the importance of life course exposure and suggest that early adulthood may be an important time for modifying risk factors such as depression,” the study said.

“Several mechanisms explain how depression may increase dementia risk,” first author Willa Brenowitz, PhD, MPH, of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, said in the release. “Among them is that activation of the central stress response system increases production of the stress hormone glucocorticoids, leading to damage to the hippocampus, the part of the brain needed to form, organize and store new memories.”

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Researchers screened participants for recent depressive symptoms through the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD-10), which included 13% of young adults, 26% of middle-aged adults, and about a third of moderate-to-high depressive symptoms. symptoms were found. older study participants.

“In general, we found that the greater the symptoms of depression, the lower the cognition and the faster the rate of decline,” Brenowitz said. “Older adults estimated to have moderate or high depressive symptoms in early adulthood were found to experience a decline in cognition over 10 years.”

Senior author Dr. Christine Yaffe stressed the importance of screening and treating depression and said that future studies are needed to verify the findings.

The study had its limitations, including difficulty in separating the effects of antidepressant use from the effects of depression and some missing clinical dementia diagnoses.


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