Background: Mild cognitive impairment has been regarded as a precursor to dementia of Alzheimer type, but not all patients with mild cognitive impairment develop dementia.
Objective: To determine whether depression may increase the risk of developing dementia.
Setting: The outpatient clinics of a community general hospital.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Methods: A cohort of 114 patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment was followed up for a mean period of 3 years. At baseline, the patients underwent memory tests, the Spanish version of the Mini-Mental State Examination, a verbal fluency test, the Geriatric Depression Scale, and the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale for staging purposes. Psychiatric examination for depression was based on structured interview and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, Fourth Edition criteria. We also carried out either computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging of the brain.
Main outcome measures: We carried out periodic evaluations based on the Mini-Mental State Examination, verbal fluency test, Geriatric Depression Scale, Blessed Dementia Rating Scale, and Clinical Dementia Rating Scale. The end point was the development of probable Alzheimer disease according to the criteria of the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke-Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association.
Results: Depression was observed in 41 patients (36%) at baseline. After a mean period of 3 years, 59 patients (51.7%) developed dementia of Alzheimer type, and 6 died. Of the depressed patients, 35 (85%) developed dementia in comparison with 24 (32%) of the nondepressed patients (relative risk, 2.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.8-3.6). The survival analysis also showed that depressed patients developed dementia earlier than the nondepressed. Most patients with depression at baseline exhibited a poor response to antidepressants.
Conclusions: We conclude that patients with mild cognitive impairment and depression are at more than twice the risk of developing dementia of Alzheimer type as those without depression. Patients with a poor response to antidepressants are at an especially increased risk of developing dementia.