A study has found a link between feelings of hopelessness between the ages of 39 and 64 and a higher chance of dementia later life.

It’s well established that there’s a link between your mental health and memory loss, particularly in the case of depression and anxiety.

Now a new study by a group of researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, Stockholm University and the Karolinska Institute, has discovered that people who have depressive thoughts are three times more likely to develop dementia in later life.

Researchers looked at 1449 people from Finland between the ages of 39 and 64 years old, and then revisited them when they were aged between 65 and 80.

They took down details of their health and lifestyle and noted down feelings of hopelessness using a special questionnaire that assessed their emotional health. However, they also took note of whether the study participants had the gene ApoE4 allele, which is present in around 20 per cent of the population and can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers noticed that those who had cognitive impairment in later life and this particular gene were also more likely to have suffered feelings of hopelessness in midlife.

Previous studies have linked depression and dementia but failed to find whether one caused the other or vice versa, but this initial research could suggest depression causes dementia. This study emphasises the importance of thinking about emotional health, as well as your physical health, when making lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.

‘These findings would appear to support the importance of looking after your emotional health and wellbeing throughout life,’ says Greg McCracken from Age Scotland (the Scottish arm of Age UK). ‘It is well known that people who experience poor mental health often fail to prioritise things like physical activity or a healthy diet, which are also important factors associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia.’

Click the links for more information on how anxiety and depression can affect your memory.