Talking therapy for depression may reduce dementia risk

Credit: Kateryna Hliznitsova / Unsplash.

In a study from UCL Psychology & Language Sciences, scientists found using talking therapies to effectively treat depression in adults over the age of 65 may be linked to reduced rates of dementia.

Depression is an important and modifiable risk factor for dementia.

However, it is not known whether effective treatment of depression through psychological therapies is linked to reduced dementia risk.

In the current study, researchers aimed to examine associations between a reduction in depressive symptoms following psychological therapy and the subsequent risk of dementia.

They used national psychological therapy data linked with hospital records of dementia diagnosis for 119808 people aged over 65.

Participants received a course of psychological therapy treatment in Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services between 2012 and 2019.

The team tested associations between improvement in depression following psychological therapy and the incidence of dementia diagnosis up to eight years later.

They found improvements in depression following treatment were linked to reduced rates of dementia diagnosis up to 8 years later.

The strongest effects were found for vascular dementia compared with Alzheimer’s disease.

Based on the findings, the team concludes that reliable improvement in depression across psychological therapy was linked to reduced incidence of future dementia.

Results are consistent with at least two possibilities.

Firstly, psychological interventions to improve symptoms of depression may contribute to dementia risk reduction efforts.

Secondly, psychological therapies may be less effective in people with underlying dementia pathology or they may be more likely to drop out of therapy.

The researchers suggest that tackling the under-representation of older people in psychological therapies and optimizing therapy outcomes is an important goal for future research.

The study was conducted by Dr. Amber John et al and published in Psychological Medicine.

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