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Depression Boosts Dementia Risk

Update Date: Jul 30, 2014 06:47 PM EDT

Depression can increase the risk of dementia, according to a new study.

After analyzing the link between depression and dementia, researchers at Rush University Medical Center found that depressed people are more likely to develop the neurodegenerative disorder.

"Studies have shown that people with symptoms of depression are more likely to develop dementia, but we haven't known how the relationship works," lead study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, neuropsychiatrist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, said in a news release. "Is the depression a consequence of the dementia? Do both problems develop from the same underlying problems in the brain? Or does the relationship of depression with dementia have nothing to do with dementia-related pathology?"

However, that latest findings suggest that the link between depression and dementia is actually independent of dementia-related changes in the brain.

"These findings are exciting because they suggest depression truly is a risk factor for dementia, and if we can target and prevent or treat depression and causes of stress we may have the potential to help people maintain their thinking and memory abilities into old age," Wilson said in a news release.

The latest study involved d 1,764 people from the Religious Orders Study and the Rush Memory and Aging Project with an average age of 77 who did not experience thinking or memory problems at the start of the study.

Researchers analyzed participants' depression symptoms and thinking and memory skills every year for an average of eight years.

While the findings revealed no link between brain damage and the level of depression symptoms, researchers found that people who developed mild cognitive impairment were more likely to have a higher level of symptoms of depression before they were diagnosed. However, researchers found no change in depression symptoms after diagnoses between healthy participants and those diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.

The study also revealed that people with dementia were significantly more likely to experience significantly higher levels of depression symptoms before they started experiencing dementia symptoms. However, these people also experienced a quicker decrease in depression symptoms after dementia developed.

The study was published in the journal Neurology

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