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The Link Between Mental Health and Memory

Mental health is a sensitive topic for many people. Despite a move towards achieving greater awareness for mental health in recent years, there is still a stigma attached to it, which results in a large percentage of individuals left untreated. To put this into perspective, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million people over the age of 18. Despite this, only 36.9 percent are receiving treatment.

Stress and anxiety can affect memory, and depression can result in short-term memory loss, such as confusion and forgetfulness, Healthline reports. This is a topic that has been well-researched, but what about the long-term effects, caused by repeated episodes throughout adulthood?

A study conducted by a research team at the University of Sussex (with their findings published in the British Journal of Psychiatry), has focused on this, and called for healthcare providers and governments to take note of their findings, and “invest in mental health provision to help stem the risk of repeated episodes of depression and anxiety,” Medical News Today reports.

The study looked closely at the long-term relationship between mental health and memory problems. According to Medical News Today, the research team has found that those who experience repeated episodes of depression and anxiety throughout adulthood are more at risk of cognitive impairment later in life. The study involved 9,385 people born in the U.K. in 1958, and the National Child Development Study (NCDS) has been collecting data on them for decades and reporting on their health at various intervals throughout their lives. Finally, at age 50, these participants were asked to take a memory test (a word-recall test), as well as other tests relating to cognitive function.

Medical News Today notes that the research suggested that an individual who had not experienced repeated episodes of depression or mood disorder did not have their memory affected in mid-life, however, those who had suffered repeated episodes were more likely to experience poorer cognitive function in midlife.

"We knew from previous research that depressive symptoms experienced in mid-adulthood to late-adulthood can predict a decline in brain function in later life, but we were surprised to see just how clearly persistent depressive symptoms across three decades of adulthood are an important predictor of poorer memory function in midlife," author of the study, Amber John said.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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