Being sad makes you old: Depression increases your brain age

Being sad makes you old: Depression increases your brain age
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(Natural News) It is completely normal to feel sad sometimes. Relationship problems, the loss of a loved one in death and other changes in circumstance can cause a temporary loss of joy. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about. However, when the sadness lingers, you no longer feel any interest in things that previously made you happy, you experience loss of appetite, and your energy levels are low for weeks on end, you could be dealing with clinical depression.

Sadly, this type of depression is far more widespread than many of us realize. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the country. In one survey, over 17 million American adults reported having had at least one depressive episode in the preceding year, with the greatest levels of depression being felt by those between the ages of 18 and 25.

These statistics are especially concerning when viewed in conjunction with the results of a study conducted by researchers from the University of Sussex and published in the journal Psychological Medicine. This study found that there is a clear link between depression and an increased risk of dementia and overall cognitive decline in later life.

Depression ages your brain

As reported by Science Daily, earlier studies had already confirmed a link between depression and dementia. However, this particular study took it a step further, proving a link between depression and a general decline in total cognitive function.

For their study, the research team analyzed the results of 34 longitudinal studies to determine the effects of depression on long-term cognition. The review involved studies with more than 71,000 participants, some of whom had been diagnosed with depression, while others were exhibiting the symptoms of the disease though they had not been diagnosed. Any participants who had been diagnosed with dementia were excluded from the review.

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The researchers paid particular attention to evidence of decline in memory, decision-making ability and information processing speed.

Science Daily reported:

The study found that people with depression experienced a greater decline in cognitive state in older adulthood than those without depression. As there is a long pre-clinical period of several decades before dementia may be diagnosed, the findings are important for early interventions as currently there is no cure for the disease.

As noted by Dr. Darya Gaysina, a lecturer at the University of Essex, the world’s population is aging and depression rates are increasing. Since there is a link between depression and cognitive decline, the number of people experiencing dementia and general cognitive decline is expected to increase dramatically in the next 30 years.

Is it depression?

The results of this study emphasize the need to deal with depression as early and as decisively as possible, not only to feel better in the present, but also to prevent a slew of problems in later life.

For those who have been feeling down but aren’t sure if they have depression, some of the symptoms to be on the watch for are extreme irritability, anxiety, trouble controlling your anger, a loss of interest in everyday activities, obsessing over things that have gone wrong in the past, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Depression is highly treatable, however, and there are many things that can be done to deal with it and therefore mitigate the risk of later cognitive decline.

“It’s not inevitable that you’ll see a greater decline in cognitive abilities,” noted Amber John, one of the study’s authors. “Taking preventive measures such as exercising, practicing mindfulness, and undertaking recommended therapeutic treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, have all been shown to be helpful in supporting well-being, which in turn may help to protect cognitive health in older age.”

Learn more about coping with mental health issues at

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