Is depression in old age fatal only when people feel lonely?

M.L. Stek, D.J. Vinkers, J. Gussekloo, A.T.F. Beekman, R.C. van der Mast, R.G. Westendorp

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    OBJECTIVE: The impact of depression and perceived loneliness in the oldest old is largely unknown. The authors studied the relationship between the presence of depressive symptoms and all-cause mortality in old age, especially the potential distorting effect of perceived loneliness. METHOD: Within a prospective population-based study of 85-year-olds, the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale and the Loneliness Scale were annually applied in all 476 participants with a Mini-Mental State Examination score of 18 points or more. RESULTS: Depression was present in 23% and associated with marital state, institutionalization, and perceived loneliness. When depression and perceived loneliness were assessed during follow-up, neither depression nor perceived loneliness had a significant effect on mortality. However, those who suffered from both depression and feelings of loneliness had a 2.1 times higher mortality risk. CONCLUSIONS: The data suggest that the increased mortality risk attributable to depression in the presence of perceived loneliness may result from motivational depletion
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)178-180
    JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


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