Published on: October 17, 2015
by Greg Christison for Express:
Middle-aged people who have depressive thoughts are three times more likely to develop dementia later in life, new research has found.
Experts said the new research emphasised the importance of people looking after their emotional wellbeing throughout their lives.
The study assessed a sample of 1,449 Finnish people when they were in mid-life – between 39 and 64 years old – and then re-examined them when they were aged between 65 and 80.
It measured participants’ feelings of hopelessness by asking a series of questions and assessed their cognitive health at the follow-up.
Experts took the health and lifestyle choices of the participants into account and also noted the presence of the gene ApoE4 allele, which is present in around 20 per cent of the population and can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The study found that those who suffered cognitive impairment at follow-up had experienced higher levels of hopelessness in midlife.
The report into the findings, published this week, reads: “Feelings of hopelessness already in midlife may have long-term implications for cognitive health with a pronounced risk increase for Alzheimer’s disease in persons who in addition carry the ApoE4 allele.
“While most research on emotion and cognitive health has focused on global depression or composite depressive feelings, this study suggests a more differentiated approach to be feasible.
“The dimension of hopelessness seems like a promising candidate that may have relevance beyond that of global depression – also as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.”
Previous studies have linked depression and dementia but failed to find whether one caused the other or vice versa.
However, the latest research found that a significant number of participants suffered depressive thoughts up to 20 years before they developed dementia symptoms.
Last night, Age Scotland’s early stage dementia team leader Greg McCracken said: “These findings would appear to support the importance of looking after your emotional health and wellbeing throughout life. It is well known that people who experience poor mental health often fail to prioritise things like physical activity or a healthy diet, which are also important factors associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia.
The research was carried out by the University of Eastern Finland, Stockholm University and the Karolinska Institute – both in Sweden.
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