Depression is the most common mental disorder in the community-dwelling elderly.
To determine the three-year prognosis of depression in a cohort of 127 community-dwelling elderly subjects and identify factors relevant to outcome.
The subjects, diagnosed depressed at year 0 using the GMS–AGECAT package, were followed up three years later. A number of factors were investigated for an association with recovery from, or persistence of, depression.
At follow-up, 30.2% of the depressed subjects had died, 34.9% had persistent or relapsed case-level depression, 24.5% had other case- or subcase-level mental illness and 10.4% had recovered completely. Physical ill-health, bereavement and positive family history of depression were associated with poor outcome, whereas treatment with antidepressant medication significantly improved prognosis.
Late-life depression in community-dwelling subjects is a chronic condition. However, the positive response to antidepressant medication suggests that it should be vigorously treated.