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Br J Psychiatry. 1995 Nov;167(5):649-52.

Depression in later life. A comparison of symptoms and risk factors in early and late onset cases.

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Manchester Royal Infirmary.



Depression in later life is often thought to differ from that at other times of adulthood. The evidence for this is controversial but is important to any proposed organic model of depression in the elderly. Here, early- and late-onset depressions in later life are compared.


Fifty-seven depressed patients with a mean age of 74 were studied, 21 with an early onset (aged 59 or less) and 36 with a late onset. All were suffering from major depression according to DSM-III-R. The measures at entry included severity and symptoms, cognitive function, antecedent life events, physical health and vascular risk factors and/or vascular disease. We also recorded any family history of mood disorders, as well as the course of illness.


The anxiety item scores of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale were significantly higher in those with an early onset, but otherwise symptoms differed little. Heritability was greater in the early-onset group. There was a striking association of vascular disease and/or risk with late-onset patients.


Vascular disease is associated with late-onset depression. This is consistent with the hypothesis that depression in later life is a more 'biological' disorder.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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