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No link between depression and dementia

17th February 2006

Older people suffering from depressive symptoms are not at an increased risk of going on to develop dementia or a general cognitive decline.

The authors of the study used 1,265 adults over the age of 67, who were not suffering from dementia, to assess any connections. Following re-assessment some years later, they found that just 171 had developed dementia.

No obvious link between depression and rate of cognitive decline was evident, with the dementia free subjects reporting little decline and those who did go on to suffer from the disease experiencing a severe decline, as expected.

"If the person continues to decline cognitively over time, that decline is likely not due to depression; it is more likely due to an incipient dementia which will manifest itself down the line," Dr Mary Ganguli from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School explained.

"Once we separate out the effect of an underlying dementia, depression does not seem to lead to further cognitive decline."

Published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, the study is seen as important as it focusses on some of the major health issues associated with old age and could help to ensure that elderly people receive the right treatment and support.