People who are often stressed out or depressed are far more likely to develop memory problems than those with more happy dispositions, U.S. researchers said on Monday in a finding that sheds light on early predictors of Alzheimer’s disease.
They said those who most often are anxious or depressed were 40 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, a form of memory loss that is often a transitional stage between normal aging and dementia.
Researchers analyzed data from two large studies involving 1,256 older people who started the studies with no memory problems. After up to 12 years of follow up, 482 people in the study developed mild cognitive impairment. Participants were rated on how prone they are to worry and depression.
“What we’re measuring is a personality trait that we all have to greater or lesser degree. We all experience anxiety and periodic depression. This trait helps identify people for whom that is more characteristic than others,” said Wilson, whose study appears in this week’s issue of the journal Neurology.
“This isn’t a measure of stress, but of the response to stress,” he said.
The latest research suggests that chronic stress may harm parts of the brain responsible for responding to stress — an area that is also associated with memory, he said. So now all you depressed folks have another reason to be stressed out and depressed.