Middle-aged people who suffer from depression may have a higher risk of contracting senile dementia later on. So concludes a research team led by Deborah Barnes from the University of California at San Francisco, based on a study investigating 13,000 patients in California, with six years of followup.
People with mid-life or later-life depression showed a 2 to 3 fold higher risk of vascular dementia than those who did not have depression.
The authors of this study were interested in causes and sources for later life dementia such as Alzheimer’s, because of its increasing prevalence in the US. The healthcare costs associated with dementia are steadily rising, as more Americans live to older ages and become senile.
A New York Times article from 2009 points out, however, that sometimes doctors diagnose older patients as suffering from senility when in fact there are other possible explanations for their confusion and forgetfulness, such as drug effects, alcoholism, malnutrition, or even depression itself. In some cases, depression in the elderly is actually misinterpreted as being dementia. People with depression often appear confused and disoriented, and it is not always easy to distinguish what is real depression that can be treated versus dementia that usually cannot be.
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