Depression Linked to Dementia in Later Life


A retrospective study of 13,535 long-term Kaiser Permanente members found that depressive symptoms in mid-life (1964-1973 for this cohort) were associated with a 20% greater risk of developing dementia.  Depression in later life (1994-2000) was associated with a 70% increased risk. Depression in both mid- and late-life posed an 80% increased risk. The study appears in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Abstract →

“Depression commonly occurs in individuals with cognitive impairment and dementia,” the researchers wrote. “Although some studies have found that depression coincides with or follows the onset of dementia in older adults, most studies and several meta-analyses have concluded that depression precedes dementia and is associated with approximately a 2-fold increase in the risk of developing cognitive impairment or dementia.”

Note from Kermit Cole, “In the News” Editor:
It is interesting to note the fact that the risk factor for dementia in this cohort is only 20% greater for depression occurring between 1964 and 1973 but there is a 70% increased risk factor for depression occurring between 1994 and 2000. Antidepressants would have been the treatment of choice for depression arising from 1994 to 2000. Apart from any considerations of the specific time-course of the contribution depression might make to the development of dementia, it is reasonable to assume that between 1994 and 2000 most people diagnosed with depression would have received antidepressants.

Related Items:
Antidepressant Use Associated with Brain Atrophy and Lesions in Elderly (
The Cure for Mood Disorders Is Dementia? (
Study: Depression in Middle Age Linked to Dementia Later On (Time magazine)


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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Whether or not the study cohort received antidepressants at any stage of their lives, the diagnosis of depression is too vague to make a meaningful association with anything occurring later.

    (Note: The DSM-5 field tests show shockingly low agreement among doctors for Major Depressive Disorder.)

    Dementia is another diagnosis that can mean many, many things.

    So what you have is a purported overlap of one vague diagnosis with another for the purpose of demonstrating depression is such a dangerous condition, it justifies the risk of biopsychiatric interventions.

    You may be depressed now, but you don’t want to develop dementia later, do you? So take this pill, and this one, and this one….

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