In a new study, researchers found people who have depression in their 20s have a high risk of memory loss in their 50s.
The finding links mental health to cognitive functions and suggests people should protect against depression at a young age to prevent brain functions decline later in life.
The research was conducted by University of Sussex psychologists.
Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity. It can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, tendencies, feelings, and sense of well-being.
The main signs include sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration. The patient may show a strong increase/decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping.
Previous research had found a link between depression experienced in older people and a faster rate of cognitive decline, but it has been unknown until now whether depression in young adulthood could influence cognitive functions later in life.
In the study, the team examined data from the National Child Development Study. It was established in 1958 with a cohort of over 18,000 babies.
The researchers followed participants from birth into childhood and through to adulthood.
They found a clear link between depression and anxiety experienced by adults in their twenties, thirties, and forties, with a decrease in memory function by the time they are in their fifties.
The accumulation of depression over the three decades was a strong indicator of memory loss by the time the people were fifty.
On one hand, one episode of depression or anxiety had little effect on the memory function of adults in midlife.
On the other hand, once the episodes increased to two or three over the course of the three decades, they could predict a strong decrease in memory function by the time the people reached fifty.
The team also found that depression at a young age had little impact on other cognitive functions, such as verbal fluency, information processing speed, and accuracy.
The researchers suggest to protect future memory function, it is important to use mental health interventions amongst young adults who experienced depression.
It may also help prevent dementia in older people since memory loss is a big sign of dementia.
The study is the first to look at the link between depression across three decades of early-mid adulthood and cognitive decline in midlife.
One author of the study is University of Sussex Psychology Ph.D. student Amber John.
The study is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
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