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New study reveals depression can accelerate ageing in older adults

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Older adults with depression age faster than their peers, with evidence of accelerated biological ageing, poor physical and brain health and worse cardiovascular health.

UConn Center on Ageing researchers have found that older adults with depression age faster than their peers. The study, which appears in Nature Mental Health, revealed that these patients show evidence of accelerated biological ageing and poor physical and brain health, which are the main drivers of this association.

The researchers studied 426 people with late-in-life depression and measured the levels of proteins associated with ageing in each person’s blood and found that the severity of a person’s depression seemed unrelated to their level of accelerated ageing. However, accelerated ageing was associated with worse cardiovascular health overall.

People with higher levels of aging-associated proteins were more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and multiple medical problems. Accelerated ageing was also associated with worse performance on tests of brain health, such as working memory and other cognitive skills.

Researchers are now exploring whether therapies to reduce the number of aged and “senescent” cells in a person’s body can improve late-in-life depression. They are also looking at specific sources and patterns of proteins associated with ageing to see if this might lead to personalised treatments in the future.

The findings of this study open up opportunities for preventive strategies to reduce the disability associated with major depression in older adults and to prevent their acceleration of biological ageing. Research suggests that personalised treatments may be possible in the future, as the researchers continue to investigate the links between depression, ageing, and physical and brain health.

Source: University of Connecticut.

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