Objective: Childhood abuse makes people vulnerable to developing depression, even in late life. Psychosocial factors that are common in late life, such as loneliness or lack of a partner, may explain this association. Our aim was to investigate whether the association between childhood abuse and depression in older adults can be explained by psychosocial factors. Methods: Cross-sectional data were derived from the Netherlands Study of Depression in Older Persons (aged 60-93), including 132 without lifetime depression, 242 persons with an early-onset depression (<60 years), and 125 with a late-onset (≥60 years) depression. Childhood abuse (yes/no) and a frequency-based childhood abuse index were included. Multinomial regression and multivariable mediation analyses were used to examine the association between childhood abuse and the onset of depression, and the influence of loneliness, social network, and partner status. Results: Multinomial regression analyses showed a significant association between childhood abuse and the childhood abuse index with early- and late-onset depression. Multivariable mediation analyses showed that the association between childhood abuse and early-onset depression was partly mediated by social network size and loneliness. This was particularly present for emotional neglect and psychological abuse, but not for physical and sexual abuse. No psychosocial mediators were found for the association between childhood abuse and late-onset depression. Conclusions: A smaller social network and feelings of loneliness mediate the association between childhood abuse and early-onset depression in older adults. Our findings show the importance of detecting childhood abuse as well as the age at depression onset and mapping of relevant psychosocial factors in the treatment of late-life depression.
Wielaard, I., Hoyer, M., Rhebergen, D., Stek, M. L., & Comijs, H. C. (2018). Childhood abuse and late-life depression: Mediating effects of psychosocial factors for early- and late-onset depression. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 33(3), 537-545. https://doi.org/10.1002/gps.4828