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Study: There's a link between depression and rapid cognitive decline

A new study found that older adults with dementia and depression are more likely to have a faster cognitive decline.

"Later life dementia is a very complex disorder and there are many factors that contribute to it, and depression is one of those factors," Robert S. Wilson with the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago told Reuters. Researchers studied more than 1,700 people over the age of 50 for eight years. None of the participants suffered from memory problems, and each year they were tested on thinking and memory skills and evaluated on depression symptoms. Close to 50 percent of the group ended up having mild cognitive impairment, which usually happens before dementia, and 18 percent were diagnosed with dementia.

Researchers found that those who had more symptoms of depression when first evaluated were more likely to have cognitive decline, and depression symptoms were linked to dementia and to a faster decline after a diagnosis.

Wilson said researchers still aren't entirely sure how depression might lead to dementia. "Depression is probably doing something to your brain if it's affecting cognition," he said. "We think in the meantime there ought to be thought given to the importance of treating depression for these people."

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.