Contribution of depression to cognitive impairment and dementia in older adults

Neurologist. 2007 May;13(3):105-17. doi: 10.1097/01.nrl.0000252947.15389.a9.


Background: The objective of this review is to provide information for clinicians regarding current research and opinions on the association of depression to conditions of cognitive impairment and dementia. We also intend to integrate this current research and thinking into strategies for the assessment and treatment of depression in the context of cognitive impairment.

Review summary: Depression is highly prevalent in mild cognitive impairment and most dementias. It may be a risk factor for the subsequent development of dementia and in some conditions may be a prodromal symptom. It is important to detect and effectively treat depression because the comorbidity of depression and cognitive impairment is associated with greater cognitive and functional decline and higher rates of institutionalization. Depression often can be differentiated from Alzheimer disease and other dementias based on characteristics of clinical history and presentation. Screening of depression and cognitive impairment will help characterize the presence and severity of these conditions, but limitations in screening approaches may necessitate comprehensive assessment in complex cases where differential diagnosis is important to treatment planning.

Conclusion: Although depression and cognitive impairment are important issues in the treatment of older adults, there are particular risks when they occur together. Appropriate assessment and screening can help guide the clinician to appropriate and timely interventions. Pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic treatment approaches are both efficacious in reducing depression in cognitive impairment and dementia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition Disorders / complications*
  • Dementia / complications*
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Geriatrics*
  • Humans