At least one in five Americans will struggle with diagnosable depression at some point in their lifetime. On its own, this is a bad enough statistic to ponder. But what if you pair it with another stat that points to depression’s long-term impact? Those who experience depression during young adulthood are 59 percent more likely to develop dementia as they age.
The links between depression and dementia continue to be studied. However, this makes it even more important to address depression in young adults. The quicker and better they are treated now, the fewer cognitive issues they may have later.
Early Adulthood Depression
Each year, roughly 14 percent of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 will experience a major depressive episode. Some experience more than one such episode. If current research holds, these individuals are at a much higher risk of cognitive problems in their later years. For the record, they are also at risk for higher rates of:
- Being arrested and incarcerated
- Substance abuse
- Worse general health
- Lower educational achievements
- More financial issues
- Poor social functioning
Obviously, depression treatment must happen for as many young people as possible. If not, the health and societal price they pay will be onerous. For the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on cognitive health.
How Early Adulthood Depression Can Impact Your Cognitive Health As You Age
An extensive survey of research — covering more than 71,000 patients — revealed the correlation between early adult depression and later cognitive decline. Depression at a young age can accelerate brain aging faster than in those without depressive episodes. This may result in issues like:
- Decreased executive function
- Slower processing of information
- Overall cognitive decline
- Memory loss
But why does this happen? What’s the connection between these two mental health concerns? One theory involves a stress hormone called cortisol. Depression can trigger the release of extra cortisol. This, in turn, is bad news for the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a major player when it comes to cognitive function. It is also vulnerable to the impact of cortisol. This has been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The greater and more frequent the depressive episodes, the more rapid is the cognitive decline.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Memory loss
- Confusion about time and place
- Difficulty following directions
- Misplacing items
- Reduced concentration
- Behavioral changes and mood swings
Helping Young Adults With Depression
Obviously, young adults with depression need help. But now we know that the help they get when young can benefit them in their older years. If you know a young adult dealing with depression, there are some powerful self-care suggestions you can make, e.g.
- Make healthy eating choices
- Create regular sleeping patterns
- Engage in exercise and/or physical activity every day
- Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine
- Do not isolate or withdraw
- Keep a gratitude journal
Self-care can go a long way in complementing the treatment you get from a professional. And make no mistake, depression requires a mental health intervention. Your willingness to speak with a therapist can be one of the most important decisions you ever make.
Therapy for Depression (and more)
Depression is a serious mood disorder. Working with a counselor can go a long way in addressing many of its outcomes. For example:
- Understanding the disorder
- Setting realistic goals
- Recognizing triggers and underlying causes
- Identifying ways to change and adapt
- Challenging counterproductive thoughts and behaviors
- Developing coping skills
If you or someone in your life is a young adult displaying symptoms of depression, you can reach out by phone. Please read more about depression therapy, then reach out for a confidential consultation today. You do not have to suffer in silence — now or much later in life.