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Depression may nearly double risk of
Newswise, July 2010 — A new study shows that having
depression may nearly double your risk of
developing dementia later in life. The
research is published in the of Neurology®,
the medical journal of the American Academy
For the study, researchers examined research
data on 949 people with an average age of 79
from the Framingham Heart Study.
At the start of the study, participants were
free of dementia and were tested for
depressive symptoms based on questions about
general depression, sleep complaints, social
relationships and other factors.
A total of 125 people, or 13 percent, were
classified as having depression at the start
of the study.
The participants were followed for up to 17
At the end of the study, 164 people had
developed dementia with 136 specifically
diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly
22 percent of people who were depressed at
the start of the study developed dementia
compared to about 17 percent of those who
were not depressed, a 70 percent increased
risk in those who were depressed.
The 10-year absolute risk for dementia was
0.21 in people without depressive symptoms
and 0.34 in people with depressive symptoms.
The results were the same regardless of a
person’s age, sex, education and whether
they had the APOE gene that increases a
person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“While it’s unclear if depression causes
dementia, there are a number of ways
depression might impact the risk of
dementia,” said study author Jane Saczynski,
PhD, with the University of Massachusetts
Medical School in Worcester, MA.
“Inflammation of brain tissue that occurs
when a person is depressed might contribute
to dementia. Certain proteins found in the
brain that increase with depression may also
increase the risk of developing dementia. In
addition, several lifestyle factors related
to long-term depression, such as diet and
the amount of exercise and social time a
person engages in, could also affect whether
they develop dementia.”
Saczynski hopes the study, which is one of
the largest and longest population based
studies to date, helps clear up confusion
over earlier studies that reported
inconsistent results about the link between
depression and dementia.
The study was supported by the National
Institute on Aging, the National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and
the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
and was made possible by the continued
participation of the study participants.
The American Academy of Neurology, an
association of more than 22,000 neurologists
and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated
to promoting the highest quality
patient-centered neurologic care. A
neurologist is a doctor with specialized
training in diagnosing, treating and
managing disorders of the brain and nervous
system such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease,
epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple
For more information about the American
Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com.