Depression has been linked to various different conditions in the past such as dementia, arthritis, and acne.
The effects of depression such as erratic sleeping habits, loss of appetite, and constant fatigue can take their toll on the brain, so much so that it can accelerate the way it ages, according to new research.
As we grow older, our memory and thinking skills naturally decline but those who are depressed may be more susceptible to accelerated brain aging, said scientists at Yale University.
That means depressed individuals may be more prone to illnesses related to old age such as dementia.
Brain cells communicate by firing messages across connections called synapses.
Generally, good cognition is linked to more and stronger synapses.
With cognitive impairment, those junctions gradually shrink and die off.
Yale University scientists found that living patients with depression had a lower density of synapses than healthy people the same age.
And the fewer synapses you have, the more severe symptoms of depression you might exhibit, such as problems with attention and loss of interest in otherwise pleasurable activities.
Yale neuroscientist Irina Esterlis tested people of all ages including people too young to have any cognitive changes (that would be difficult to pick up without a brain scan)- on the theory that early damage can build up.
She looked at the brains of 20 people – half of whom were diagnosed with clinical depression and the other who were deemed healthy after completing a comprehensive psychiatric test.
She discovered that severely depressed individuals had brains which showed lower synaptic density.
Having a lower density of synapses has been associated with neurological disorders and it is said to be common in people between 74 and 90 years old.
Though her study is small, it has triggered scientists to look at the way the brain is impacted by depression.
Her team, as well as other researchers, also encouraged people to get treated for their depression rather than suffer in silence.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, chat to your GP or call Samaritans on 116 123.
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