Episodes of depression early in life are linked to memory loss later on, new research finds.
People who experience depression and anxiety in their 20s, 30s and 40s tend to develop memory problems in their 50s.
It suggests depression might lead to dementia in later life.
Tackling depression and anxiety in young adulthood may help to reduce memory problems as well as the risk of dementia.
Approaches such as meditation, exercise and maintaining strong relationships can all help.
Dr. Darya Gaysina, study co-author, said:
“We found that the more episodes of depression people experience in their adulthood, the higher risk of cognitive impairment they have later in life.
This finding highlights the importance of effective management of depression to prevent the development of recurrent mental health problems with long-term negative outcomes.”
The conclusions come from a study that followed over 18,000 babies born in 1958, who have been followed into adulthood.
The results showed that the more mental health problems people had early on, the greater their memory problems in later life.
A single episode of depression or anxiety had little effect later on.
However, two or three episodes in their 20s, 30s or 40s were linked to worse memory function in their 50s.
Ms Amber John, the study’s first author, said:
“We knew from previous research that depressive symptoms experienced in mid adulthood to late adulthood can predict a decline in brain function in later life but we were surprised to see just how clearly persistent depressive symptoms across three decades of adulthood are an important predictor of poorer memory function in mid-life.
…this research should be a wake up call to do what you can to protect your mental health, such as maintaining strong relationships with friends and family, taking up physical exercise or practicing mindfulness meditation—all of which have been shown to boost mental health.”
The study was published in the The British Journal of Psychiatry (John et al., 2019).