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Am J Psychiatry. 1991 Feb;148(2):174-8.

Persistence and remission of depressive symptoms in late life.

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Department of Psychiatry, Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY.



The relation of poor health to the onset of depression symptoms in late life is well recognized, but little attention has been given to characteristics that might predict persistence or remission of depressive symptoms. In previous analyses the authors found that increasing disability and declining health preceded the emergence of depressive symptoms in older community residents and accounted for 70% of the variance explained by discriminant analyses. The aim of the present analysis was to examine the relevance of changes in health and disability to the persistence of depressive symptoms.


A representative sample of 1,855 adults aged 65 or older were assessed with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale at baseline. Twenty-four months later, 1,577 individuals were available for a second assessment of depressive symptoms. The characteristics of the 97 community residents whose depressive symptoms persisted over 24 months were compared to those of the 114 whose symptoms remitted.


Changes in health, differences in age, sleep disturbance, and added formal support services accounted for more than 30% of the variance between the persistently depressed and remission groups. Advanced age and worsening health were associated with persistent symptoms, improved health with remission.


Previous studies have indicated that untoward changes in health and disability play a major role in the onset of depressive symptoms. These findings show a substantial contribution to chronicity as well.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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