Depression and dementia: are they related?

Research has found that people with anxiety, psychological stress, and severe or chronic depression have a higher likelihood of developing dementia. A new study from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare set out to explore this link further.

The study followed more than 65,000 people over an average of 25 years, finding that psychological distress does seem to be associated with an increased risk of dementia. That said, it is unclear whether depression is leading to dementia, or if it’s the other way around.

Similar studies have posited that rather than increasing one’s risk for dementia, depression may actually be part of the condition: psychological distress is a common symptom of the early stages of dementia. This study, however, found that symptoms of psychological distress were associated with up to a 24% increase in risk of dementia.

Dr. Sonja Sulkava explains, “Our study suggests that symptoms of psychological distress, e.g., exhaustion, depressive mood, and experience of stress, are risk factors for dementia, and not only prodromal symptoms of underlying dementia disorder. [However], [w]e cannot prove causality.”

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