Exposure to Depressive Symptoms Linked to Worse Cognitive Function

Prolonged exposure beginning in young adulthood linked to worse cognitive function over midlife, especially among Blacks
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WEDNESDAY, June 12, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to elevated depressive symptoms starting in young adulthood is associated with worse cognitive function over midlife, with the association stronger among Black than White adults, according to a study published online June 12 in Neurology.

Leslie Grasset, Ph.D., from the University of Bordeaux in France, and colleagues used prospective data from 3,117 participants of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study to examine the relationship between trajectories of depressive symptoms over 20 years and cognitive functions in middle age. Depressive symptoms were measured at five study visits between 1990 and 2010. Four trajectories of depression symptoms were identified: persistently low, persistently medium, medium decreasing, and high increasing. Cognitive function was measured in 2015.

The researchers found that the associations between depressive symptoms and cognition differed significantly by race. Among Black individuals, worse verbal memory, processing speed, and executive function scores were seen for those with medium decreasing, persistently medium, and high increasing depressive symptoms versus those with persistently low symptoms. Among White individuals, associations were slightly weaker, but having high increasing depressive symptoms was associated with worse verbal memory and processing speed scores.

"Further studies that employ life-course approaches to investigate the association between depressive symptoms and cognitive decline are needed to better understand the role of early-life depressive symptoms as a risk factor of cognitive aging," the authors write.

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