London: Taking an aspirin pill a day could help combat depression in the elderly, a new study has revealed.
Trials found that a regular dose of aspirin reduced the risk of depression in sufferers by around 40 percent.
The medicine seems to work by lowering levels of homocysteine, an acid in the blood thought to increase the chances of heart attacks and strokes when levels are too high.
Now, some scientists think that excess homocysteine may also be a factor in poor mental health and that nearly one in six cases of depression in the elderly could be avoided by using aspirin to lower levels in the blood.
The elderly are at high risk of suffering from depression because of the effect from declining health, bereavements and loneliness.
To test whether lowering homocysteine levels prevented depression, scientists at the University of Western Australia in Perth studied 3,700 men aged between 69 and 87 and monitored their medical records to see which ones had a history of depression.
They were also tested to see if they had raised levels of homocysteine.
The findings of the study showed that men with excessive homocysteine levels were 60 per cent more likely to suffer with depression.
This is the first study to show that aspirin is associated with a significantly lower risk of depression among older men with high homocysteine.
According to researchers, it is still not clear how homocysteine makes someone more susceptible to depression, but the men with high homocysteine who took a daily aspirin saw their risk of depression drop 43 percent.
Taking vitamin B supplements, which can also lower homocysteine, did not have the same effect.
The study has been published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.