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BACKGROUND: This study investigated differences in cognitive performance between middle-aged adults with and without a lifetime history of mood disorder features, adjusting for a range of potential confounders.
METHODS: Cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from the UK Biobank cohort. Adults aged 40-69 (n=143,828) were assessed using measures of reasoning, reaction time and memory. Self-reported data on lifetime features of major depression and bipolar disorder were used to construct groups for comparison against controls. Regression models examined the association between mood disorder classification and cognitive performance, adjusting for sociodemographic, lifestyle and clinical confounders.
RESULTS: Inverse associations between lifetime history of bipolar or severe recurrent depression features and cognitive performance were attenuated or reversed after adjusting for confounders, including psychotropic medication use and current depressive symptoms. Participants with a lifetime history of single episode or moderate recurrent depression features outperformed controls to a small (but statistically significant) degree, independent of adjustment for confounders. There was a significant interaction between use of psychotropic medication and lifetime mood disorder features, with reduced cognitive performance observed in participants taking psychotropic medication.
CONCLUSIONS: In this general population sample of adults in middle age, lifetime features of recurrent depression or bipolar disorder were only associated with cognitive impairment within unadjusted analyses. These findings underscore the importance of adjusting for potential confounders when investigating mood disorder-related cognitive function.