Treating Depression to Prevent Dementia

According to new research, treating depression in older adults could decrease risk of dementia by 51%.

According to a new study, treating depression could lower the risk of dementia for certain patients.1

Using data collected by the UK Biobank, researchers examined more than 350,000 participants, including 46,280 participants with depression. During the study, 725 of the patients with depression also developed dementia. Participants were categorized into 1 of 4 courses of depression: increasing course, with mild initial symptoms that steadily increase; decreasing course, with moderate- or high-severity symptoms that decrease; chronically high course, with ongoing severe depressive symptoms; and chronically low course, with mild or moderate depressive symptoms that are consistently maintained.

“For subjects with late-life depression, it is crucial to receive timely treatment. The onset of dementia reduced most significantly among patients with an increasing course, while treatment turned out to be disappointing for those with persistent high symptoms. Thus, timely treatment might be essential for subjects [with depression],” study leader Jin-Tai Yu, MD, PhD, exclusively told Psychiatric Times™.

The study results suggested that depression elevated the risk of dementia by 51% as compared with participants without depression. Participants with increasing, chronically high, or chronically low course depression were found to be more prone to dementia, while those with decreasing course faced no greater risk than participants without depression. Participants with depression who received treatment had a 30% reduced risk of dementia compared to untreated participants.

“This indicates that timely treatment of depression is needed among those with late-life depression,” said study lead Wei Cheng, PhD. “Providing depression treatment for those with late-life depression might not only remit affective symptoms but also postpone the onset of dementia.”2

As to further research, the study leaders shared with Psychiatric Times that future studies are needed to unravel the effect of different treatment types.

“In our study, we did not find any comparable difference between treatment types. However, since only 725 participants developed dementia, after being stratified by specific treatment types and depression courses, the statistical power might be insufficient to yield significant conclusions,” said Dr Yu. “Therefore, future research should stratify subjects [with depression] by types of treatment, for example, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, etc.”

References

1. Yang L, Deng YT, Leng Y, et al. Depression, depression treatments, and risk of incident dementia: a prospective cohort study of 354,313 participants. Biol Psychiatry. 2022.

2. Timely interventions for depression might lower the future risk of dementia. Elsevier. News release. October 17, 2022. Accessed November 2, 2022. https://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/pb/assets/raw/Health%20Advance/journals/bps/BPS_221017_PR_Yang_et_al_FINAL-1666034440127.pdf