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 Study Finds Correlation Between Depression And Cognitive Decline

​An elderly woman’s depression might be the harbinger of the dementia to come, researchers have found.

Elderly women who showed signs of depression were nearly twice as likely to develop cognitive problems or dementia within five years, according to a study published in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Led by Johns Hopkins Assistant Professor Adam Spira, researchers examined 302 women who were at least 85 years or older. Using the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), the team rated the women’s depression, with scores of 6 or more indicating “elevated symptoms,” the researchers wrote.

Five years later, the women were given neuropsychological and clinical cognitive status exams, according to the journal’s abstract. The results were stark: at least 70 percent of women who had been depressed five years previously demonstrated at least mild cognitive impairment, compared with just 37 percent of the women who were not depressed.

At least 65 percent of the women who had been depressed developed dementia, while only 37 percent of the non-depressed women had dementia.

Additionally, less than 20 percent of the depressed women had “normal cognitive status” five years later; 46 percent of the non-depressed women had normal status.

“Women with elevated depressive symptoms had worse scores on tests of global cognition and working memory,” the researchers wrote.

Researchers have increasingly found that depression can affect cognition in adults, but Thursday’s findings, first reported by Medscape, is the first to show a direct correlation among “the oldest of the old.”

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