Emerging research suggests depression can speed the decline of cognitive skills and the ability to perform daily tasks among individuals with Alzheimer’s.
Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center say that although these findings are observational, they could suggest that providing mental health treatment for people with Alzheimer’s disease might slow the loss of independence.
Study findings are published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
“This is the first paper to show that declines in function and cognition are interrelated over time, and that the presence of depression is associated with more rapid functional decline,” said senior author Yaakov Stern, Ph.D.
The relationship between Alzheimer’s and depression is strong as almost half of Alzheimer’s patients have depression.
As a result, researchers who were studying the long-term association between cognitive and functional abilities in the disease, also looked at the role of depressive symptoms in disease progression.
They reviewed data that tracked changes in cognition, depression, and daily functioning in 517 patients with probable Alzheimer’s. Patients were assessed prospectively every six months for more than 5-1/2 years.
“Making a prognosis for Alzheimer’s disease is notoriously difficult because patients progress at such different rates,” said first author Laura B. Zahodne, Ph.D.
“These results show that not only should we measure patients’ memory and thinking abilities, we should also assess their depression, anxiety, and other psychological symptoms that may affect their prognosis.”