How Depression and Anxiety Can Affect Your Memory

Image from University College of London.

In 1958, researchers in the UK began collecting data from thousands of children born in a single week that year, creating the National Child Development Study (NCDS), which has been ongoing for nearly 60 years.

This is so fascinating to me! Mental health researchers have followed, interviewed and documented these people’s experiences ten times over their lives, compiling a pool of data about poverty, disability, social behavior, etc. (You can read more about this study here.)

Using data from the NCDS, a new study was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry which looks at the connection between mental health and your memory.

Here’s how it worked: the researchers looked at the participant’s history of mental health problems and tested their memory function at age 50: word-recall tests, verbal memory, information-processing speed and information-processing accuracy.

And in the study paper, they reported that consistently poor mental health–specifically depression and anxiety–from age 23 to 50 was associated with poorer memory later on.

“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,” says the study’s first author Amber John.

The researchers make it clear that these findings should hopefully call attention to poor mental health as a priority, both to policy makers and health care providers.

I agree whole-heartedly. In fact, you can read what I’ve written about the damaging long-term effects of compulsive behavior, and healthy coping mechanicsms here.

Managing and protecting your mental health should be a priority for everyone! And signs of poor mental health can go unnoticed (or unacknowledged) for years. It may be a gradual loss of interest in your favorite activities, constantly berating yourself for mistakes, persistent fear or the feeling that you can’t go on.

If you feel any of these emotions, please contact me! I want to help you get your mental health in order and give your brain a chance to rest.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

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