Azara Blog: Depression allegedly linked with Alzheimer's

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Date published: 2008/04/08

The BBC says:

People who have had depression may be more prone to Alzheimer's disease, two studies suggest.

Dutch researchers found Alzheimer's was 2.5 times more likely in people with a history of depression.

Similarly, US researchers, examining Catholic clergy, found those with signs of depression were more likely to go on to develop Alzheimer's.

The Dutch appears in the journal Neurology and the US study in Archives of General Psychiatry.

The Dutch study was small - 486 people over an average of six years, with just 33 people developing Alzheimer's.

But it found that people who showed signs of depression before the age of 60 were four times more likely to develop Alzheimer's.

The researchers, from the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, said more work was needed to fully understand the link between Alzheimer's and depression.

Lead researcher Dr Monique Breteler said: "We don't know yet whether depression contributes to the development of Alzheimer's disease, or whether another unknown factor causes both depression and dementia."

Yes, this is a classic case where it is easy to confuse correlation and causation. You could no doubt look at a zillion and one illnesses (not just mental illness like depression) and find a nice little correlation with Alzheimer's for half a zillion of them. (Especially when you have a small sample of people.) It proves nothing, but of course the BBC is always happy to give such research a nice little bit of publicity implying that the causation must be true.

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