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Active Thyroid May Cause Senior Depression

Update Date: Feb 20, 2014 03:14 PM EST

Seniors with more active thyroid glands are at risk of depression, according to a new study.

Previous studies reveal that the thyroid, which is responsible for regulating the body's metabolism, can also influence mental health. Many studies have shown that both over-and underactive thyroid glands increase a person's risk of depression.

Researchers said the latest finding is the first to find a correlation between depression and thyroid activity variations within the normal range.

The latest study involved 1,503 people with an average age of 70. Researchers had measured levels of the thyroid-stimulating hormone to determine how active participants' thyroid glands were. Researchers explain that thyroid-stimulating hormone signals the thyroid gland to make more hormones, so when their levels are low it suggests that the thyroid gland is active and producing plenty of thyroid hormones. Researchers also measured participants'' depression symptoms using a questionnaire. Afterwards, researchers monitored participants for the development of depression symptoms over the course of eight years.

"We found that older individuals with thyroid activity at the high end of the normal range had a substantially increased risk of developing depression over the course of an eight-year period compared to individuals who had less thyroid activity within the normal range," study author Dr. Marco Medici of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, said in a news release. "This suggests that people with even minor changes in thyroid function may experience similar mental health effects as those with overt thyroid disorders, including hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism."

"These results provide insight into the powerful effects thyroid activity can have on emotions and mental health," Medici concluded. "This information could influence the process of diagnosing and treating depression, as well as treatments for individuals with thyroid conditions."

The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

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