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In a study of nearly 2,200 Medicare recipients aged 65 and older, researchers led by Dr. Edo Richard of the University of Amsterdam examined the association between late-life depression and dementia and thinking/memory difficulties known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
The study, published online Dec. 31 in the journal Archives of Neurology, found that people with depression were 40 percent more likely to have mild mental impairment and more than twice as likely to have full-blown dementia. Although depression also was linked to greater risk for incident dementia, it was not associated with incident problems with thinking and memory.
The study authors said those with both mild cognitive impairment and depression were at increased risk for developing dementia, particularly vascular dementia. They noted, however, that these patients were not at greater risk for Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia.
"Our finding ... suggests that depression develops with the transition from normal cognition to dementia," the authors wrote in a journal news release.
Depression affects between 3 percent and 63 percent of people with mild cognitive impairment. Previous studies have found that those with a history of depression are at greater risk for dementia. The researchers added that there is no clear explanation for the link between late-life depression and cognitive impairment, and their study does not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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SOURCE: JAMA, news release, Dec. 31, 2012