Depression and Alzheimer's Linked
Depression Boosts Risk of Dementia, but Does Not Increase During Early Alzheimer's, Studies Show
WebMD News Archive
April 7, 2008 -- A history of depression, especially if it occurs early in life, boosts
your risk of getting
Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study.
But depression does not seem to increase during the early stages of
Alzheimer's disease, according to another new study, refuting the idea that the
Alzheimer's causes the depression, as some claim.
Together, the two studies contribute some answers to the ongoing debate
about depression and Alzheimer's disease -- and whether depression triggers the
Alzheimer's disease, the Alzheimer's disease triggers the depression, or yet
another risk factor leads to both. Up to 50% of Alzheimer's patients also
The new research strengthens advice to take depression seriously and get
treatment, says Gary Kennedy, MD, director of geriatric psychiatry at
Montefiore Medical Center, New York, N.Y. "You want to get over it as
quickly and completely as possible," says Kennedy, who reviewed the studies
Depression and Alzheimer's: Role of History Study
To look at the link between depression and Alzheimer's disease, researchers
from Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands assessed 503 men and women, aged
60 to 90 at the study start and free of dementia. All were participants in the Rotterdam Scan
Study, an ongoing research effort to look at chronic diseases in the
Participants reported any history of depression and noted if it occurred
before or after age 60. They also reported any symptoms
of depression at the study start.
Researchers also performed three-dimensional
MRI scans to look at the volume of two brain areas -- the hippocampus and
the amygdala, two areas that some experts say shrink in those with depression.
They wanted to see if they could document that suspected association.
After a six-year follow-up, 33 people developed dementia; 134 of the
participants had a history of depression (88 early onset, 46 late).
If the depression occurred before age 60, the researchers report, the risk
of getting Alzheimer's disease later was nearly four times as great as for
those who did not have a history of depression. If the depression occurred
after age 60, the risk was about 2.5 times greater than the risk for the