Active thyroid may raise risk of depression in older individuals

February 20, 2014

When older individuals' thyroid glands are more active than average, it may be a risk factor for depression, according to new research accepted for publication in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

Beyond its role in regulating the body's metabolism, the also can influence mental health. Past research has found links between an increased risk of and both over- and underactive glands. This study is the first to find an association between depression and thyroid activity variations within the normal range.

To determine how active the thyroid gland was, researchers measured levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is the body's signal to the thyroid gland to release more hormones. When TSH levels are low, this suggests the thyroid gland is active and producing plenty of thyroid hormones. Researchers also measured levels of the actual thyroid hormones at a later point in time and confirmed these subjects had increased thyroid activity.

"We found that older individuals with thyroid activity at the high end of the normal range had a substantially increased risk of developing depression over the course of an eight-year period compared to individuals who had less thyroid activity within the normal range," said one of the study's authors, Marco Medici, MD, of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. "This suggests that people with even minor changes in thyroid function may experience similar mental health effects as those with overt thyroid disorders, including hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism."

The population-based cohort study analyzed data from a group of 1,503 people with an average age of 70. At the outset of the study, researchers measured participants' TSH levels and gauged their using a questionnaire. Participants included in the study displayed no depression symptoms at the first visit. During follow-up visits over the course of eight years, on average, researchers assessed participants for the development of depression symptoms.

The study divided participants into three groups based on their TSH levels. Study participants with TSH levels at the low end of the normal range – signaling they had more active thyroid glands – were more likely to have depression symptoms emerge during the course of the study.

"These results provide insight into the powerful effects thyroid activity can have on emotions and ," Medici said. "This information could influence the process of diagnosing and treating depression, as well as treatments for individuals with thyroid conditions."

Explore further: Mild increases in thyroid-stimulating hormone not harmful in the elderly

More information: dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.stemcr.2014.01.008

Related Stories

Thyroid problems linked to irregular heart rhythm

November 28, 2012

People with an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) carry a greater risk of developing irregular heart rhythm (known as atrial fibrillation) than those with normal thyroid function, finds a study published on BMJ today.

Recommended for you

We've all got a blind spot, but it can be shrunk

August 31, 2015

You've probably never noticed, but the human eye includes an unavoidable blind spot. That's because the optic nerve that sends visual signals to the brain must pass through the retina, which creates a hole in that light-sensitive ...

Biologists identify mechanisms of embryonic wound repair

August 31, 2015

It's like something out of a science-fiction movie - time-lapse photography showing how wounds in embryos of fruit flies heal themselves. The images are not only real; they shed light on ways to improve wound recovery in ...

New 'Tissue Velcro' could help repair damaged hearts

August 28, 2015

Engineers at the University of Toronto just made assembling functional heart tissue as easy as fastening your shoes. The team has created a biocompatible scaffold that allows sheets of beating heart cells to snap together ...

Fertilization discovery: Do sperm wield tiny harpoons?

August 26, 2015

Could the sperm harpoon the egg to facilitate fertilization? That's the intriguing possibility raised by the University of Virginia School of Medicine's discovery that a protein within the head of the sperm forms spiky filaments, ...

Research identifies protein that regulates body clock

August 26, 2015

New research into circadian rhythms by researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga shows that the GRK2 protein plays a major role in regulating the body's internal clock and points the way to remedies for jet lag ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.