Depressive symptoms are commonly seen in people who have been diagnosed with dementia. However, the question remains as to whether depressive symptoms earlier in life are considered a risk factor for dementia.
A new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry has analysed a dataset of more than 10,000 participants, aged 35 to 55 years, who were recruited as part of the Whitehall II cohort study (back in 1985).
The researchers found that those who reported depressive symptoms throughout the 28-year study period did not have a significantly increased risk of dementia in later life. Therefore, concluding there was no strong evidence to suggest that depression was a risk factor for dementia.
Interestingly though, the analysis did find that those who reported chronic and recurring depressive symptoms in the late phase of the study (last 10 years or so) did have higher chance of being diagnosed with dementia.
So, that sounds a bit contradictory – what does it mean exactly? Dr Archana Singh-Manous from the Paul Brousse Hospital in France who led the study told JAMA:
“If you measure depressive symptoms close to a dementia diagnosis, then there is an association, but if you’re looking at the entire trajectory of depressive symptoms, there isn’t really an association.”
In short, she is suggesting that depression isn’t really a risk factor for dementia, but may suggest that depression in later-life may be a precursor or sign for impending dementia and the two could be linked.
However, again reiterating, the study did not suggest that depression in younger or midlife is a risk factor for dementia in later life, and to date, there is no research evidence to suggest this claim.
The researchers do want to undertake further research to understand their findings, but if you are concerned or worried about someone who is displaying depressive symptoms, it is certainly recommended to seek professional advice.
You can view the original research article here
For more information on depression and dementia, read the Alzheimer’s Australia HelpSheet here