A fairly recent study done by the University of California looked into the ties between depression and dementia. Their main focus was on mid-life and late-life depression. They believed that there is some sort of relationship between the two that could help with early detection and care for dementia.
The Ties Between Depression and Dementia
The study was long and with a large pool of participants. The study was over the course of 45 years and had 13,535 people. The way they were able to do this was through a program called Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program of Northern California.
Participants got a voluntary health examination called the Multiphasic Health Checkup (MHC) in San Francisco and Oakland during 1964–73 when they were 40–55 years old.
As part of the mid-life study, participants were asked if they felt unhappy or depressed for long periods of time. Those who answered yes were considered depressed.
The study’s authors also checked health records to see if anyone was hospitalized due to depression. Late-life depression was determined through electronic medical records provided by Kaiser.
Dementia diagnoses were determined through electronic records as well during the years of 2003 through 2009. Participants were classified into one of four depression groups: no depressive symptoms, mid-life only, late-life only, or both.
The results from the year 2003 were that 72.5 percent had no depressive symptoms at mid-life or late-life, 14.1 percent had mid-life symptoms only, 9.2 percent had late-life symptoms only, and 4.2 percent had both.
During the 6-year follow-up period, 20.7 percent of subjects with no depressive symptoms developed dementia compared to 23.5 percent of those with mid-life symptoms only, 31.4 percent of those with late-life symptoms, and 31.5 percent of those with both mid-life and late-life symptoms.
Depression that comes for the first time late in life may reflect the earliest symptoms of dementia in some individuals. According to the study, it’s possible that earlier recognition of dementia could facilitate better management of healthcare through earlier treatment with memory-enhancing agents, when they are most likely to be effective, as well as greater involvement of caregivers, simplification of medication regimens and earlier discussions regarding goals of care.
You can read the whole study here.