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New survey: cognitive dysfunction in depression

A new survey, finds 99% of people diagnosed with depression suffer from cognitive dysfunction during the course of their disorder, but only half have ever been asked about these symptoms by a healthcare professional.

Results from a new survey, launched today, found that almost all people diagnosed with depression (99%) have experienced at least one symptom of cognitive dysfunction during an episode of depression. Furthermore, the survey indicates that these symptoms can have an enormous effect on an individual’s working life; with one in six of those suffering from cognitive dysfunction in depression reporting that symptoms have caused them to lose their job (15%).*

Cognitive functions influence every aspect of our lives and are responsible for how we learn, remember, problem-solve and make decisions. Those who suffer from cognitive dysfunction will experience problems in these essential brain-based skills, which will impact upon their education, work, and personal life.

The survey, conducted by ComRes, an independent market research company, written in collaboration with Depression Alliance and funded by Lundbeck Ltd., set out to explore the impact of cognitive dysfunction on everyday lives of British adults diagnosed with depression. The most common cognitive symptoms reported by patients were difficulty concentrating (91%), slowed thought processing (84%) and difficulty with planning and organising (79%).

Although these findings indicate that cognitive dysfunction impacts the vast majority of those suffering from depression, only half of those surveyed said that they had ever been asked about their cognitive symptoms by a healthcare professional (HCP) (50%). As improving cognitive symptoms during an episode of depression can significantly improve the chance of a functional recovery from depression, these results suggest a large number of patients could be missing out on treatment for an incredibly important aspect of their depression.

“For those of us who have never experienced any cognitive symptoms, it can be hard to appreciate the effect these symptoms have on day-to-day life. Results from this survey demonstrate how certain aspects of peoples personal lives can be impacted by their cognitive dysfunction,” said Emer O'Neill, Chief Executive of Depression Alliance.

People diagnosed with depression said that the symptoms of cognitive dysfunction can make talking to others more challenging than usual (73%), normal hobbies and interests more difficult to do (68%) and day-to-day chores requiring organisation more difficult to complete (68%).As well as impacting the personal lives of people diagnosed with depression, cognitive dysfunction can significantly affect a patients’ working life. Only 3% of those in paid or voluntary work, students or carers reported suffering one or more symptoms of cognitive dysfunction reported that it has had no impact on their work life. Three quarters of people diagnosed with depression reported lacking focus or interest in what they were doing at work (76%) and feeling less confident at work (75%) due to their cognitive symptoms. Moreover, almost one in six (15%) of those surveyed report that they have lost their job due to cognitive dysfunction, whilst almost one in ten (9%) report that cognitive dysfunction in depression has prevented them from getting a promotion.

Government-commissioned research in 2010 found that people unable to work because of depression lose £8.97 billion of potential earnings per year in England. These findings demonstrate the importance of addressing cognitive dysfunction in depression if patients are to live a normal working life.

Emer O'Neill comments, “Although the impact of depression on mood is generally well understood by both healthcare professionals (HCPs) and the public, the impact of cognitive dysfunction, such as memory and decision making is very often underestimated. These symptoms can damage peoples’ confidence and cause them to withdraw from both their personal and professional lives. We hope that these findings will begin to increase understanding and awareness of cognitive dysfunction, encouraging both HCPs and people affected by the condition to discuss and address these symptoms, in addition to the impact depression can have on a person’s mood.”

The survey found that 45% of adults who have experienced depression said that cognitive dysfunction, such as difficulty in remembering things to the ability to make quick decisions has impacted their everyday lives to an equal measure as emotional symptoms. This supports the view that people with depression need effective treatment for both cognitive and emotional symptoms.

“If we hope to provide the best chance of recovery for all those with depression, it is important that treatment pathways continue to evolve and take into account all aspects of this complex disorder, treating both mood and cognitive dysfunction,” said Emer O’Neill.

ComRes conducted an online survey of 200 British adults who have been diagnosed with depression, between the 17th and 27th July 2015. Full data tables can be found at
ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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