Article Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

Mental health can impact memory decades later


Apr. 4, 2019 Medical Health

Scientists have already shown that depression and other mental health problems can affect a person’s memory in the short term.

For instance, a study that the journal Cognition and Emotion published in 2016 found that individuals with dysphoria — a persistent sense of unhappiness or dissatisfaction that is often a symptom of depression — had poorer working memory than people without any mental health problems.

Now, however, researchers from the University of Sussex in Brighton, U.K. have found evidence that links experiencing mental health problems throughout adulthood to memory problems at the age of 50 years.

The implications, says study author Darya Gaysina, are that “the more episodes of depression people experience in their adulthood, the higher risk of cognitive impairment they have later in life.”

“This finding highlights the importance of effective management of depression to prevent the development of recurrent mental health problems with long-term negative outcomes.”

Darya Gaysina

In the new longitudinal study, the findings of which appear in the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers analyzed the data of 9,385 people born in the U.K. in 1958, which the National Child Development Study (NCDS) has been collecting.

This new study is the first to look at the long-term relationship between mental and cognitive health.

Mental health problems and memory

To date, the NCDS has followed this cohort for more than 60 years, collecting information about each participant’s health at the ages of 7, 11, 16, 23, 33, 42, 44, 46, 50, and 55 years.

In addition, these participants reported their affective symptoms at the ages of 23, 33, 42, and 50 years and agreed to take memory and other cognitive function tests when they reached 50 years of age.

Gaysina and colleagues looked at how often the participants experienced mental health symptoms throughout the study period and assessed their performance in terms of memory function at age 50.

The researchers used a word-recall test to assess the participants’ memory, and they also evaluated each person’s verbal memory, verbal fluency, information-processing speed, and information-processing accuracy.

The investigators report their findings in the study paper, writing that the “accumulation of affective symptoms across three decades of adulthood (from age 23 to age 50) was associated with poorer cognitive function in midlife,” and, specifically, with poorer memory.

Although experiencing a single episode of depression or another mood disorder did not seem to affect a person’s memory in midlife, the researchers explain that going through depression and anxiety repeatedly throughout adulthood was a good predictor of poorer cognitive function at age 50.

“We knew from previous research that depressive symptoms experienced in mid-adulthood to late-adulthood can predict a decline in brain function in later life, but we were surprised to see just how clearly persistent depressive symptoms across three decades of adulthood are an important predictor of poorer memory function in midlife,” says the study’s first author Amber John.

Read More on Medical Health

Gene Upshaw Player Assistance Trust Fund

Apply Today

All Resources

Tell Me More

Getting goal-ready: how mindfulness can help you tackle anything

A healthy mind — calmer, clearer, and contented — is less prone to being emotionally reactive during the highs and lows.

Read More

Sobering Truth About Addiction Treatment in America

Addiction is treatable. So why aren’t more people receiving quality care?

Read More

Learn to Breathe

It may sound simple, but your mental health is tied to breathing, and doing it correctly.

Read More

How Exercise Lowers the Risk of Alzheimer’s by Changing Your Brain

Even if you are pre-disposed, consistent exercise can negate or significantly slow down types of dementia.

Read More

Hearing Aids Can Reduce Depression and Dementia Risk

Hearing loss is associated with changes in the brain and may affect the ability to form new memories.

Read More

What Makes a Successful Startup Team

Starting your own business? Your leadership on the field can help you achieve success.

Read More

How to Prepare Your Credit for Retirement

Credit isn’t only a young person’s game. Make sure it doesn’t derail your plans.

Read More

New "Veggie" Burgers Storm the Market.

They might be better for the planet, but are plant-based burgers good for you?

Read More