Healthcare providers have been searching for ways to reduce the risk for developing dementia. Treating depression may, in some way, help the mind stay sharp.
A recent review looked at a group of studies that dealt with dementia and depression.
The results showed that people with depression later in life were at greater risk for developing dementia.
Breno S. Diniz, MD, PhD, from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, led a research team to investigate depression as a risk factor for developing two different types of dementia.
“Late-life depression is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in older adults,” said the study authors.
According to the authors, previous studies have suggested depression may increase the risk for developing vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and a mix of these two types of dementia.
With vascular dementia, there is a decline in thinking skills due to a lack of proper blood flow in the brain.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, with characteristics of confusion, memory and thinking trouble, forgetfulness, disorientation and physical and mental deterioration.
For this review, the researchers looked through multiple medical study databases for studies that investigated depression and vascular dementia and/or Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers selected 23 studies including 49,612 participants for the review. Overall, there were 5,116 people with late-life depression and 44,496 people without depression that were used as a comparison group.
In the studies on Alzheimer’s disease, there were 3,437 participants with late-life depression and 25,309 people without depression in the comparison group.
In the studies on vascular dementia, there were 1,801 participants with depression and 13,100 people without depression in the comparison group.
The results of the study showed that people with late-life depression had nearly double the risk for developing any type of dementia.
Participants with late-life depression had 2.5 times the risk for developing vascular dementia and 1.7 times the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, compared to people without depression.
The study authors suggested that further studies and clinical trials should investigate whether preventing late-life depression could reduce the risk for developing any type of dementia.
The authors reported that their findings in this study were in line with findings in other studies on depression as a risk factor for dementia.
Limitations to this review, according to the authors, included the lack of face-to-face interviews with the study participants and variations in the depression scales used in each study.
“The prevention of depression along with stimulating general healthy behaviors and lifestyles, reduction of cardiovascular burden and other mental health-related problems should be considered in public health policies aiming at the prevention and/or delaying of the presentation of dementia syndromes in the older adult population,” said the study authors.
The cost of treatment for depression can vary based on location and insurance coverage. Therapy sessions can run between $0 and $150 per session and prescription medications can run between $0 and 300 per month.
This study was published in May in The British Journal of Psychiatry.
This research was supported by the John Hartford Foundation, a UPMC Endowment, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the National Institutes on Aging, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institutes, the National Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and other public funding sources.
The study authors declared financial relationships with the following pharmaceutical and medical technology companies: Novartis, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Forrest Laboratories, Eli Lilly, Northstar Neuroscience, Medtronic and Fox Learning Systems.