Treating depression timely may reduce dementia risk

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Over 55 million people worldwide live with dementia, a disabling neurocognitive condition that mainly affects older adults.

No effective treatment for dementia exists but identifying ways to help minimize or prevent dementia would help to lessen the burden of the disease.

Depression has long been associated with an increased risk of dementia.

In a study from Fudan University and elsewhere, scientists found that timely treatment of depression could lower the risk of dementia in some patients.

They used data collected by the UK Biobank, a population-based cohort of over 500,000 participants.

The study included more than 350,000 participants, including 46,280 participants with depression. During the course of the study, 725 of the depressed patients developed dementia.

Previous studies examining whether depression therapies such as pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy could lower the risk for dementia produced mixed results, leaving the question unresolved.

The team found older individuals appear to experience different depression patterns over time.

They found that depression elevated the risk of dementia—by a striking 51% compared to non-depressed participants.

However, the degree of risk depended on the course of depression; those with increasing, chronically high, or chronically low course depression were more vulnerable to dementia, whereas those with decreasing course faced no greater risk than participants without depression.

The researchers most wanted to know whether the increased risk for dementia could be lowered by receiving depression treatment.

Overall, depressed participants who received treatment had a reduced risk of dementia compared to untreated participants by about 30%.

When the researchers separated the participants by depression course, they saw that those with increasing and chronically low courses of depression saw a lower risk of dementia with treatment, but those with a chronically high course saw no benefit of treatment in terms of dementia risk.

This study indicates that timely treatment of depression is needed among those with late-life depression.

Providing depression treatment for those with late-life depression might not only remit affective symptoms but also postpone the onset of dementia.

If you care about mental health, please read studies about the key to depression recovery, and Omega-3 fatty acids could protect memory in healthy older people.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about medications for depression, and results showing these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.

The study was conducted by Jin-Tai Yu et al and published in Biological Psychiatry.

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