Depressive symptoms may increase risk for dementia, but findings are controversial because late-life depression may be a prodromal dementia symptom. Life course data on depression and dementia risk may clarify this association; however, data is limited.
Objective: To impute adult depressive symptoms trajectories across adult life stages and estimate the association with cognitive impairment and decline.
Methods: Using a pooled study of 4 prospective cohorts (ages 20-89), we imputed adult life course depressive symptoms trajectories based on Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale-10 (CESD-10) and calculated time-weighted averages for early adulthood (ages 20-49), mid-life (ages 50-69), and late-life (ages 70-89) for 6,122 older participants. Adjusted pooled logistic and mixed-effects models estimated associations of imputed depressive symptoms with two cognitive outcomes: cognitive impairment defined by established criteria and a composite cognitive score.
Results: In separate models, elevated depressive symptoms in each life stage were associated with cognitive outcomes: early adulthood OR for cognitive impairment = 1.59 (95%CI: 1.35,1.87); mid-life OR = 1.94 (95%CI:1.16, 3.26); and late-life OR = 1.77 (95%CI:1.42, 2.21). When adjusted for depressive symptoms in the other life-stages, elevated depressive symptoms in early adulthood (OR = 1.73; 95%CI: 1.42,2.11) and late-life (OR = 1.43; 95%CI: 1.08,1.89) remained associated with cognitive impairment and were also associated with faster rates of cognitive decline (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Imputing depressive symptom trajectories from pooled cohorts may help expand data across the life course. Our findings suggest early adulthood depressive symptoms may be a risk factor for cognitive impairment independent of mid- or late-life depressive symptoms.