Depression may do more than darken your mood, with new research suggesting it might also sap your memory.
“Since symptoms of depression can be treated, it may be possible that treatment may also reduce thinking and memory problems,” said study author Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, from the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.
The scientists also found that the brain structure of seniors with more severe symptoms of depression differed from those without depression.
The study included more than 1,100 people, average age 71, with no history of stroke. They underwent brain scans, a mental health assessment, and took memory and thinking skills tests at the start of the study. Their memory and thinking skills were tested again roughly five years later.
At the start of the study, 22 percent of the participants had greater symptoms of depression, and they scored lower on tests of episodic memory, which is the ability to remember specific experiences and events. But the study did not prove that depression actually caused memory problems.
Those with greater symptoms of depression also had smaller brain volume and were 55 percent more likely to have small vascular lesions in the brain. There was no evidence of a link seen between greater symptoms of depression and changes in thinking skills over five years.
The study was published online May 9 in the journal Neurology.
“With as many as 25 percent of older adults experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s important to better understand the relationship between depression and memory problems,” Zeki Al Hazzouri noted in a journal news release.