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Older Adults With Sleep Problems May Have Increased Risk of Depression

People who are sleep deprived often experience increases in negative moods such as anger, frustration, irritability, and sadness. Now a new study has found that older adults with depression who also have worsening, or persistent sleep disturbance may be at an increased risk for persistent depression.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University used data from a sleep and mental health study that included 599 participants with an average age of 70.3. Two-thirds of the participants had major depression and one-third had minor depression at the beginning of the study. Participants’ insomnia symptoms were recorded for one year, and participants were classified as having worsening sleep disturbances, persistent sleep disturbances, or improving sleep during that time period.

The researchers found that participants with worsening sleep were 28.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with major depression compared to participants with improved sleep. They were also 11.9 times more likely to be diagnosed with minor depression and 10% more likely to have had suicidal thoughts.

Participants with persistent sleep disturbances were also more likely to have persistent major or minor depression compared to those with improved sleep. However, their risk was not as great as those with worsening sleep.

The study was published online ahead of print on April 2, 2020 in the journal Sleep.

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