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J Affect Disord. 2013 May;147(1-3):241-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.11.010. Epub 2012 Nov 26.

Childhood abuse in late-life depression.

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Department of Psychiatry, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Little is known about the role of childhood abuse in late-life depression. The aim of the study is therefore to study whether childhood abuse is associated with late-life depression according to its onset, and which clinical characteristics play a role in this association.


Data were used from 378 depressed and 132 non-depressed persons, aged 60-93 years, from the Netherlands Study of Depression in Older persons (NESDO). Childhood abuse included psychological, physical and sexual abuse and emotional neglect.


53% of the depressed older adults reported childhood abuse, compared to 16% of the non-depressed older adults (p<0.001). Using logistic regression analyses adjusted for age, sex and level of education, depression was strongest associated with physical abuse (Odds Ratio ((OR) 13.71; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 3.25-57.91) and least with sexual abuse (OR 5.35; 95% CI 2.36-12.14). Childhood abuse was associated with early-onset (OR 13.73, 95% CI 7.31-25.80), middle age-onset (OR 5.36, 95% CI 2.90-9.90) and late-onset depression (OR 4.74, 95% CI 2.51-8.95). In the late-onset group childhood abuse was associated with an increased number of chronic diseases.


Age of depression onset and childhood abuse were asked retrospectively, which may have biased the results.


Childhood abuse is strongly related to late-life depression and its comorbidities, even in the case of late-onset depression. This might suggest that psychological wellbeing can be maintained throughout middle age, but may be disturbed in later life.

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